Schoolcraft Class of 2020 Commencement Speech

From Kenzi McNally Pridgeon, Air National Guard Captain, and 1999 Schoolcraft graduate

When you cannot have all the traditional pomp and circumstance, what does a graduation in 2020 look like? I am sure many of the graduates, family members, friends, teachers, staff, and others are asking that same question. It is different and unique this year. This is nothing new for 2020 graduates, as they were born to be resilient.

By definition, resilience is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. Most of the graduates this year were born in 2001-2002, during the time Americans witnessed the worst terrorist attack in our country’s history. These events changed the course of life in the U.S. and the rest of the world. Our country united together and revealed our resilient spirit. You can see, graduates, since you were born during those difficult and trying times, you were born to be resilient!

As we look around, we can see how much our lives have changed this year. Not just from the first day of the year, but from three months ago, two months ago, even two weeks ago. This pandemic has affected us all. Some have lost jobs and some have lost businesses. Some have missed birthday parties and others have rescheduled weddings. Some have missed proms, athletic events, championships, and graduations. Life has been difficult. People have faced many hardships. The world has changed. But with change comes beauty.

So, to the class of 2020, here is where you come in! You have so many new adventures, experiences and milestones still ahead of you. You have an open book and it is your decision how to write it. During these tough times I hope you can look around and start to think about ways to rebuild things that have been lost or change things you do not feel are right. I want you to look at the world and see all the possibilities and opportunities that are within your reach, even if they do not seem like it now. If nothing else, I hope that this pandemic has made you realize plans change, people change, life changes; that is where opportunity begins and resiliency exists!

As I think back to my senior year, I reflect on the many memories I have. These memories were great not because of the graduation gown I wore or the way I styled my hair. No, they were great because they were made with the people who were most important to me. You might not have the opportunity to walk across the stage to receive your hard-earned and well-deserved diploma this year, but I guarantee you, your family, friends, teachers, and staff will be just as proud of you. You see, events do not make the memories. You and the people who surround you do that!

So, to the Class of 2020, I hope you are eager to get out there. I hope you are able to accomplish whatever you dream to do, so that years from now you will look back and say you left things a little bit better than how you found them. Be nice to everyone because each of us is on a different path and have such a special story to tell. I hope you find joy and happiness and realize those two things can truly never be bought. And most of all, I hope out of every difficulty you encounter, you remember how truly resilient you are. Congratulations, Class of 2020!

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