For all of us, but particularly our children, life after COVID-19 will never be the same.
The pandemic swept into our nation and into our communities rapidly and the response to the virus will have long-lasting effects that no one has experienced before.
This is a defining moment.
And that is especially true for our children, those young people who are celebrating milestones in the midst of quarantine and panic, in the face of unprecedented economic downturn and social upheaval.
All we know has changed, and it’s mostly likely that many of those changes are permanent.
However, in saying that, we also acknowledge that all is not lost. And, while what is being experienced is painful and of uncertain duration and effects, what we know from our past is that the course of the future is being set today.
The Class of 2020 will not get to experience, in any normal way, the rites of passage many of us took for granted, and those who come after them will also navigate a substantially changed environment.
Those students who have worked for years toward having a winning record in spring sports saw those hopes dashed. Those students also saw a majority of the second half of the end of their high school careers end, not with seeing their old friends one last time in the classroom, but with staying connected via technology and learning in virtual environments.
It’s a different time.
But the class of 2020 and those who will come after them hold the key to our future.
While it’s heartbreaking that these young people will not get to experience these normal rites of passage as they move into a future that looks nothing like the past, they are the ones who will rebuild our nation and our world.
They no longer have the option to do things the way their parents and grandparents did. And, while that’s disappointing, it’s at the same time an opportunity.
The one thing we cannot afford to discount or ignore at this time is the resilience and capability of the human spirit. Sure, we’re facing some big challenges. But, as in the past, big challenges lead to big answers.
The Greatest Generation faced a world of complete and total upheaval. The world shuddered under the weight of World War II, as the United States struggled with its own economic illnesses. The post-World War II United States was a place of growth and change, of technological and economic creativity and positive movement.
The Baby Boomers who came after faced down social strife and division, as well as challenges like the Vietnam War, and emerged through making changes that improved lives through the expansion of civil rights and other measures.
Their children, Generation X and those who came after have seen a world shaped by technology, as well as the challenges and pain brought about by the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The story of this generation and those around it is still being written but they have obviously done things that have positively impacted the world in which we live and will continue to do so.
Each of these generations faced different challenges, but they also shared the common experience of meeting these challenges head-on. These generations all met the challenges and did not fold, but kept pushing forward, taking the pain and suffering they were experiencing and making changes that attempted to ensure that those who came after would not experience the same thing.
The current youth are going through something they will never forget, as well, a global pandemic that has again brought about change that no one anticipated.
They need our support, they need our encouragement, but they also need our space, space in which they can move and grow and find novel solutions to the problems facing us. As they move forward in their education and into their futures, we must find ways to give them the tools they need to take the COVID-19 pandemic and create solutions for the problems it leaves in its wake.
Even before COVID-19, change was occurring in our world at a rapid pace. We all understood that “something” was occurring, even before this virus and the response to its threat crashed onto our shores and into our neighborhoods like a tsunami.
Now that we see “something” that will never leave our lives the same again, it’s time to look toward those who are going to be most heavily-impacted by our actions today. And it’s time for us to go “all-in” on ways to support these young people and guide them toward their destiny of potentially being the second Greatest Generation.
Congratulations, Class of 2020, we’re all looking toward you for the answers and the leadership that will help guide us going forward. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also the reason you are where you are today.
The challenges will be great, but the opportunities are greater. We can’t wait to see what your future holds for both you and all of us.