To the Graduating Class of 2020 (An Open Letter):

You didn’t bargain for this and you don’t deserve it. You worked hard. Paid your dues. And when it came time to celebrate, the world went crazy.

And I wouldn’t dare say anything as tone deaf as “look on the bright side” and then proceed to pretend that I would not be angry and bitter were I in your shoes.

But, there is a bright side, and the bright side, quite frankly, is you.

Your whole life you’ve been told that technology was wrecking you—that it was turning you into mindless, socially inept automatons and that you couldn’t survive 10 seconds in “the real world.” But how foolish we all feel now, when the real world turned out to be the very world you told us was already here, as we tried haplessly to hold on to one that was passing away.

And the great irony in all of it is that at a time when you could have gloated in your prophetic success or at least rolled your eyes when we all began scrambling to figure out how to take our world online, you did nothing of the sort. Instead, you were present, you were kind, you were generous, you were everything that we said you didn’t know how to be.

The silver lining then to all of this is not the hard lessons you are learning, but the hard ones the rest of us are. We undervalued you, under appreciated you, and misunderstood you. We need to own that.

The second part of that silver lining is that the world, the one you create, will flourish. It will be less divisive, more relational, more socially aware and less self-conscious than perhaps any generation before you. How do I know that? Because these are the qualities we are seeing in you right now.

The future is bright indeed, and you make it so. And the world will perhaps remember your delayed graduation more than any that ever happened on time. And it will be remembered because we will remember you. We will not, cannot, forget your perseverance and your ability to roll with things as they come. We will never forget that you offered us compassion instead of judgment and grace instead of blame.

So happy graduation, class of 2020. The world needs you. I need you. We all need you.

A Professor


  1. ladybaobab says:

    Jerry, as the parent of a senior, I am grateful for this message. We adults are often too quick to criticize the generation that succeeds us. My daughter, though grieving many losses, is not sulking around the house making everyone miserable. Instead, she is working hard to finish her classes well, taking the lead on exercise, and connecting with friends in creative ways. She understands the necessity of this temporary loss of freedom though it affects her deeply. I’m so very proud of her. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I could only feel.


    1. thank you for your kind words! These kids truly inspire me!


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