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An Open Letter to the Class of 2020

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

Dear Class of 2020,

Yesterday, I drove my oldest son through a farewell parade at his middle school. It was an exciting and bitter sweet moment, and a passage that marks the beginning of high school for him and all his classmates. While he was doing his level best to play it cool, we are all excited for what is to come in these next few years.

Andrew Golden enjoying his moment in the sun at his middle school parade celebration.

The family minivan waving goodbye and thank you to middle school.

You, of all people, know what is in store for him, his classmates, and all of the incoming students at high schools all over the country. You know of all the things to anticipate and look forward to. Unfortunately, you also now know what it is like to lose the things you were expecting and looking forward to due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

I want to say congratulations to you, not only because you have accomplished what you set out to do (graduate high school), but because you did so with this degree of difficulty that no other class before has faced. Yes, this was supposed to be your year, and the springtime - the best season of that year. Prom, graduation, senior spring break, and all the mini-celebrations with your fellow seniors, all gone. You would even be forgiven if you felt as though these last few months, and the things they have taken from you is an unfair deal. That you were robbed.

But, if I may, I would like to suggest to you that from these uncertain and tumultuous months, your generation is ready to rise from this pandemic like no other generation before you. Novelist James Lane Allen famously wrote that "Adversity doesn't build character. It reveals it," and in this public health crisis the world has learned the following about the character of your generation:

1) You sacrificed rites of passage you have been anticipating for years to protect the health of the most vulnerable in your community.

2) When you could not continue your education in the traditional way, thousands of you worked with your hard-working teachers to find a completely new way to learn.

3) Many of you decided that even if you could not be together, you would find other ways to celebrate safely.

If we have learned anything from history, it is that our nation's greatest generations have been those who sacrificed and demonstrated resiliency against conditions that they themselves often didn't create. They found ways to overcome wars, financial collapses, multiple recessions and The Great Depression, struggles for civil rights, and so many others. Your generation is set to join these great generations, not because this pandemic happened to you, but because of how you responded. Like them, you found ways to still move forward, you banded together, and you found a way.

You have proven that just because the future is never promised that you don't have to be scared. You have proven that when we face new challenges that we must respond in even newer ways. You have proven that we can be emotionally engaged even in our social distancing.

It is no coincidence to me that your generation was the first to enter the world in the immediate aftermath of September 11th. The world needed the good news of you then, and again, we need you now.

So go forth and celebrate with family this great accomplishment and continue to find your way - you are the resilient Class of 2020.

We are so proud of you.


Dr. Thom

May 22, 2020

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