By Owen Charters
It’s that time of year—graduation. From high school, from junior high, from elementary school, from college or university. Even from preschool (very cute, if you’ve seen it).
The lawn signs are out at homes everywhere, marking that a grad lives there. There are video graduations. Quick in-person by-appointment only in-and-out graduations. Sequestered parties where grads can come together in pods. There are outdoor grads. And there are prom-posals. Sigh, the prom-posals. The stories of asking your date to the prom, more elaborate than marriage proposals.
The big graduation ceremonies are missing, yet again, and it’s sad because it marks such an important transition in a young person’s life. The high school or college/university graduation is a Very Big Deal—it’s our general marker of gaining the keys to adulthood. We don’t have elaborate rituals to mark when a child becomes an adult, but we have these institutional milestones.
But however it may be done this year, it’s time to celebrate. It’s time to be done with the studying, the textbooks, and the Zoom classes. It’s time to enjoy a summer before contemplating what’s next. It’s time for congratulations on a job well done, on achieving a major life milestone.
To all the grads, we salute you. You’ve earned it. And you’ve earned it in the soft glow of a computer screen, the disembodied voice of a teacher floating around you. With your camera on or off, your attention sometimes wavering. But you made it. You did it.
And now before you lies a world that is awakening slowly from a pandemic-induced slumber, a world you’re ready to take on with all of the exuberance and energy of youth. Make it yours. Build it better. Sorry about the mess, but please fix our mistakes and the mistakes of those that came before us, well-intentioned but bumbling.
You are the future and you’ve graduated with the bona fides of being the COVID generation. Don’t let that define you—cast it off and make it about what you do, not what was done to you. We’ve all learned lessons through this and not just the academic ones. Apply them and let us build a better society together.
Welcome to what’s next—an agenda that you will write.