Congratulations to the Class of 2020 — to all the Classes of 2020: college, high school, elementary school and even preschool ... where my grandson just “graduated.”
For most youngsters, it has been a confusing year capped by a disappointing finish. But already, these graduating classes have accomplished much. Certainly, they have saved dozens, perhaps thousands, of lives by setting examples of flexibility, fortitude and fairness. They have also proved that they have a desire to learn by adapting to the requirements of learning outside formal classrooms. Many, if not most, students missed meeting in classrooms each day, but they adapted (sometimes better than the adults around them). Indeed, one of the most important lessons all of us should learn from the experience is just how important education is to young people and to society as a whole.
It is likely that most members of the Classes of 2020 will remember their “graduations” more vividly than members of classes that came before and will come after. This year’s graduations were not more spectacular than other graduations, but they were certainly different, unique and profoundly meaningful. We tend to remember the different, the unique and the meaningful more vividly than we remember the normal. I can imagine graduates from the Classes of 2020 telling their grandkids about these academic transitions “during the great pandemic of 2020,” but I don’t know many graduates from other years who remember the occasions, let alone what was said and done there.
Before they, themselves, become grandfathers and grandmothers, members of the Classes of 2020 are likely to influence significant progress in the nation and the world. They will, of course, find ways to protect future generations from pandemics such as COVID-19. When they take over as political and business leaders of the future, they will be more likely to reward educators than to punish them as too many of today’s leaders are inclined to do. They will remember that our health care system did a remarkable job of responding to the pandemic, but the response was not without flaws. The Classes of 2020 will remember the flaws in our health care system. They will correct the flaws and add to the system’s strengths.
The Classes of 2020 will likely be more flexible than previous classes. They learned to be flexible during the months before “graduation.” They will use that flexibility to find innovative solutions to problems facing the nation and world — problems such as income inequality, global climate change, energy shortages, air and water pollution, international tension and political gridlock.
As has almost always been the case, young people will certainly emerge from the current crisis with new ideas, new energy and new solutions.
They will be outstanding policymakers.
And so, congratulations to the Classes of 2020. Congratulations, also, to current and future generations that will benefit from the contributions of the Classes of 2020. I thank you — we all thank you — in advance.
Scott N. Howell is a former Utah Senate minority leader and current Utah political leader.