Dear Class of 2020,

You were born in the shadow of the world defining moment we have come to know as “9/11”. As you began your formal schooling, hundreds of thousands of people were dying in the Iraq War. You were children during the economic collapse of 2008. You have spent your teen years confronted daily by catastrophic environmental news.

And now, you are facing a graduation from high school unlike any that has ever taken place.

You are graduating in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis. There will be no elaborate ceremony in a big auditorium with family, friends and supporters to honour your achievement. There will be no grad-dance, no after-grad party and no opportunity to hug goodbye those who have walked with you through these years of school.

Who could have imagined, when you entered kindergarten in 2008, that this would be the shape of your high school grad when it finally rolled around twelve years later?

I know people are thinking hard and creatively about how the work, effort and determination you have put in might be recognized and honoured.  But, whatever alternative grad recognition may be planned, you have lost a lot in this spring of your final year of high school.

So it is important to remember that, whatever shape your graduation may take, it is not ultimately the speeches, award presentations, the dance, or the party that are most important.

The important thing at this moment is that you honour in your heart the qualities that have enabled you to arrive successfully at this milestone. The challenging times in which you have grown to young adulthood remind us all that, in the face of the confusing realities of life, we need to develop those inner skills that have sustained you on your journey so far.

You have come to this point because, in the midst of uncertainty and even fear in the world, you have persevered. You have worked hard. You have applied yourselves to the tasks at hand and come back again and again to meet the demands of a world that has changed during your lifetime with unprecedented magnitude. You have been adaptable and creative. You have reached down deep and found strength and steadiness that at times you may have doubted was available. You have been open to different opinions and embraced various ways of understanding the world and what it means to be human. You have moved forward with respect and reverence for this earth and with honesty before the unique challenges facing the world today.

You have met the confusion of this world with openness, authenticity and vision. When you have stumbled, as we all stumble, you have picked yourselves up and returned to the tasks at hand. You have met each day, or maybe only some days but at least enough to keep moving forward, with a degree of hope and inner strength that has enabled you to arrive at this milestone.

You are the graduating class to whom we are going to look for leadership and wisdom as we move forward in an unstable and shaken world.

Those of us who are poised on the edge of leaving our positions as leaders depend upon your wisdom, education, and compassion to find new ways forward in the messy realities we face. We look to you to foster for all people a degree of human well-being, kindness, peace and prosperity that my generation has failed to achieve.

As I look at the world you are inheriting, it is hard not to feel a bit sad for the state of things we are passing on to you. I wish we had been able to model for you a more healthy, stable, humane and sustainable way of being.

May you find deep wisdom as you move forward to take your place in the adult world and to assume leadership in our community. May you hold fast to those qualities of mutual respect, gentleness, authenticity, and reverence for the land we inhabit that have brought you successfully to this great juncture in your life.

Whatever your grad celebration looks like, please know that we honour you in our hearts, celebrate your accomplishments and hold great hope for our future under your care.

God Bless you all,