Columns share an author’s personal perspective.
Long before they arrived, we knew the graduating class of 2020 would be something special, if for no other reason than the auspicious date.
Born in the new century, theirs is a generation more diverse, more curious, more interconnected than any in history.
But this situation certainly wasn’t what we had in mind.
It’s ironic that “2020” is shorthand for clear and perfect vision, given that no one foresaw the breadth and depth of this crisis.
There are events that stay with us for life. For so many teens, just getting to graduation is a huge, odds-defying accomplishment.
To be robbed of the pomp and circumstance by no consequence of your own making is a hard introduction to adulthood. It will change the trajectory of millions of young lives in ways not yet known.
A pale horse
Because memory can be selective, we adults have a tendency to dismiss teenagers because of their music, their clothes, their obsession with social media.
We love to finger-wag about how good they have it, and “wait until you enter the school of hard knocks, yadda, yadda ...”
But we forget their childhood was book-ended by the Sept. 11 attacks and a worldwide pandemic.
They’ve had to grow up much faster than probably is fair, but this, too, is nothing new.
Virtually every generation has its crucible.
The class of 1918 matriculated as the pale horse of influenza cut a swath through the world.
In 1929, teens watched as the world came undone by an economic crash.
In the 1960s, as Vietnam raged, young men crossed the stage to receive their diplomas, knowing that their lives could end before they started.
In the 1980s, young adults were staring down the double barrel of AIDS and HIV as they departed childhood.
They grew up hearing how thousands of their grandparents left their senior year of high school to join the military at the onset of World War II. But we, the beneficiaries of that Greatest Generation, have let them down. We’ve allowed the country they fought and died for to devolve into camps of contention and acrimony.
Instead of assuming the mantle of world leadership in this pandemic, we’ve staggered about like a blind giant.
The graduates of 2020 have borne disappointment with a maturity and grace that belies their years.
They have earned the right to have their voices heard and to be taken seriously. Even before graduation, many refused to remain silent and passive while the earth they will inherit burns and drowns.
They deserve credit and encouragement from those of us who have lived long enough to know we will pass through this latest valley, though we certainly aren’t carrying ourselves in the spirit of such knowledge.
If it is true, as the poet Aeschylus wrote, that wisdom comes by way of pain and despair, perhaps the class of 2020 is the only thing that saves us from ourselves.
Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @cgoshayREP