Editorial: The right of passage for Class of 2020

  • A senior at Tupelo High School makes his way across the stage to an empty auditorium as his family waits backstage for his graduation ceremony last week in Tupelo, Mississippi.

    A senior at Tupelo High School makes his way across the stage to an empty auditorium as his family waits backstage for his graduation ceremony last week in Tupelo, Mississippi. Associated Press Photo

 
Posted5/11/2020 9:32 PM

We've entered into the beginning of what traditionally has been graduation season.

Illinois State University, for example, went through virtual commencement exercises over the weekend, with a handful of recorded speeches and digital collections of the names and photos of the Class of 2020.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

This type of thing will take place at middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities throughout the suburbs and, for that matter, across the nation throughout May and into much of June.

Some schools still hope to have a more traditional ceremony later in the year. Whether the COVID-19 pandemic allows that to happen, we'll all have to wait and see.

But for now, commencements will be re-imagined this year. As with anything else, some schools will be more creative than others. But let there be no doubt, every school will try to celebrate these commencements as best as it can.

There are many rites of passage in an individual lifetime -- many rites of passage that a person recalls with clarity and tenderness many decades later in life.

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Life is about experiences and this is one of them.

So, it's a shame that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken that experience away from the Class of 2020.

Let's all of us therefore resolve to create a special experience in its place.

Let's find unique and special ways to mark this rite of passage.

Let's create a celebration so different and unique that the members of the Class of 2020 will look back in 2050 and 2060 and 2070 and feel that they had been blessed, not cheated, by this year's alternative.

Already, some attempts at it are apparent throughout the suburbs. You can't go out for a walk to get some exercise or for a drive to complete an errand without passing a house with a yard sign paying tribute to high school graduate who lives there.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

At each of those homes, let us be the first to applaud.

And to those members of the Class of 2020, let us offer a reminder, finally, that the accomplishment matters more than the ritual that acknowledges it. It's easy to see commencement as an end, as the completion of study and adolescence, and of course, it is all that.

But commencement is also an important beginning, the start of a path that moves forward into the future. Those studies, and the relationships built as part of them, ultimately amount to preparation to all the opportunities that lie ahead.

Celebrate, yes, and seize the day.

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