Greetings graduating class of 2020! Woohoo! You did it!
I am honored and proud to offer these unsolicited congratulatory remarks on your incredible achievement, and to provide some inspirational words of encouragement as you move on to do all of the great and momentous things you truly are meant to do.
This was not a good year to be Seniors. As you know, people over 65 are at much higher risk of bad Covid outcomes. So you should take great comfort in knowing that with your diploma in hand, you can finally graduate out of those dangerous retirement homes to go live with your parents and, for a while at least, play Grand Theft Auto and watch all 9 seasons of The Office again.
I know this is not what you want to hear. I know that It may feel as though after all of your hard work and perseverance, here and now, as you celebrate what should be a glorious transition into the spring of your life, that the world as you know it is crashing and crumbling around you.
Make no mistake, it is.
A world wide pandemic, economic collapse, global warming, mass shootings, closed bars. But you must take faith in the knowledge that It could be worse. Although at this point, I am not sure quite how.
A pessimist will tell you the glass is half empty. An optimist will tell you the glass is half full. But I will tell you that these are just shallow cliches designed to give you bland, misguided hope. And we don’t need hope right now. We need solutions. And this is where you, Class of 2020, come in. And not a moment too soon.
It is time to redefine these tired cliches, these bon mots, these worn expressions that continually remind us that things were once better, even if they were not.
It is time for you to pick up a broom. Because you, class of 2020, are the sweepers behind the parade. It was a good run while it lasted, and now it is up to you to clean up the mess.
Here are some cliches that I entrust with you to change.
We are all in this together. Those on ventilators and those without jobs would probably disagree with this wholesome, feel good sentiment. However, I think it is accurate to say that as young, educated graduates inheriting a world that you didn’t major in, you are all in this together. And if collectively you work hard, respect each other, and lean on each other, you will create opportunities to grow and thrive in ways that none of us who are supposed to be in this together can even imagine.
The new normal. This phrase should be abolished along with over-the-shoulder generational phrases like 50s are the new 40s. Normal is as normal does. You have the opportunity to make your own normal, so think about what you want that to look like and go make it happen.
Social Distance. An oxymoron created by boomers who can’t figure out Instagram. As graduates of the Class of 2020, you have grown up with the Internet and understand that effective personal communication is about making distance social, not the other way around. This will serve you well over the foreseeable future as you commence your life ahead from your parent’s basement.
We will get through this. OK, this is certainly true, but this is also what the dinosaurs said. The difference is that you understand cataclysmic events like giant meteors and radioactive fallout. The dinosaurs never graduated from anything. Including being dinosaurs. So, yes, with some grit and perseverance, you will get through this. And hopefully bring us with you.
An abundance of caution. Humans don’t throttle their behavior because they have a lot of caution, they throttle their behavior because they are scared shirtless, that is, without a shirt. Don’t forage your way in the world with an abundance of caution. Strike out boldly, with nothing but the shirt on your back. Even if you are scared shirtless.
Flatten the curve. There are some things you may want to slow down in life, but most things you don’t. You don’t want to flatten the curve. You want to be the curve. Set your agenda, make it a good one, and stay away from those who seek to flatten it.
Fake news. Since when did viewpoints and interpretations that we don’t agree with become fake? Oh right, it was probably when you entered the class of 2020 as Freshmen four years ago. If nothing else, I hope you have learned that thoughts and ideas and discourse are the most valuable skills provided by education. It is the reason why you should never stop learning.
And so class of 2020, as I stand before you from home, a virtual cliche without pants, I congratulate you on your remarkable achievement and challenge you to change the world.
It has been said before, but we are in good hands.