Hats off to the Class of 2020
from Cathie, Eileen, Joan and Greg
When I graduated from high school, our class motto was “At this peak we begin climbing.” My message to this year’s graduates is, You have climbed the peak! Congratulations! As you stand there, you look back to your high school days and ahead to all that is before you. This is not the only peak you will climb in your life. You will pass through some valleys, and you will ascend other peaks. Cherish your time in the valleys. It is there that you grow, learn things about yourself, and gain strength to conquer the next peak. As you prepare for that next climb, I wish you a smooth ascent and a beautiful view from the top!
On June 4, 1993, I graduated from high school. I was the last student in line at graduation, a fitting place for the last child of a family that had had students in the small school system for 20 years. Beyond that, the most I can recall from my graduation is that my gown was yellow and the graduation ceremonies were completed in less than one hour. It was exciting to toss our caps into the air and exult in finishing a long chapter in our lives. But what was most memorable about high school was the experiences I shared with my classmates. The times when we planned to have the best hallway during spirit week, or our costumes for senior costume day. As a six-foot blonde, I decided to be Big Bird, a name I earned for myself when I had a yellow winter coat. Even more memorable were the relationships I formed with friends and mentors. I loved working on the yearbook staff, and even today I am close with some of my classmates. That is where the meaning lies. Most of all, Class of 2020 high school graduates need to know that the world is before them for the taking. You will forge the future and my wish is that your vision looking forward will always be 20/20.
When I think about my graduation, it seems very innocent. There were problems in the world, but it was easy to feel hopeful. In these tumultuous times, graduates are balancing hopes for the future with great uncertainty as to what that future may bring. I wish you all safe passage to a calmer harbor.
Not many of my high school classmates were focused on graduation when the day finally arrived. The Boston Celtics were playing in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. The Celtics had battled back in the series but were still down 3 games to 2 going into graduation night. There were no cell phones. The only way to follow the game was on television or radio. Our class leaders begged the administration to ensure that the graduation ceremony would end early enough to allow time for us to get home to watch the game. When a few students threatened to accessorize their caps and gowns with Walkmans and headphones if the ceremony ran long, those in charge trimmed enough pomp and circumstance to finish in just over an hour. Considering that we were a class of 250, this was no easy task. But my friends and I walked in our doors just in time for tipoff and watched the Pistons demolish the Celtics and win the series.
At the time, the Celtics loss seemed far more important than graduating from high school. Looking back, our plans to celebrate a Celtic victory were certainly premature, even though a win seemed like a sure thing. I’m sure the Class of 2020 can relate, as they have lost their opportunities even to gather together as a class, much less experience what seemed to be a sure thing graduation ceremony just a few months ago.
As a speech and debate coach, my students are well versed in the stories I tell about former students, examples of both triumph and tears, in attempting to shape the performance of current students. At some point in the future, I am certain some students will tell me how hard it is sit in class, or how difficult it was to compete at a tournament, and I cannot wait to tell them how the Class of 2020 forged their way through amid the most strenuous and difficult of circumstances.
The stories you will tell and the memories you will keep will resonate and become part of who you are. Though not what you anticipated, the tales of the Class of 2020 will be unique in the annals of high school graduation.
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