Let me begin by welcoming everyone here today, and a deep-hearted welcome and thank you to those who contributed to this year’s unprecedented graduation for the class of 2020. This year, for myself and my fellow graduates, has not been what we envisioned, planned for, or ever imagined. I recently came across a quote by Mike Rawlings, the 61st mayor of Dallas, Texas, and it speaks to me regarding this time in our lives and to history: “It may get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.” So I am here before you, the fellow graduating class of 2020, to say it will get better.
Never would we have thought we would end our senior year on our couch behind our laptops. It goes to show that the unexpected is to be expected. We have taken so much for granted, but this time has opened our eyes. We live on a small Island with a year-round resident population of nearly 15,000. We have learned that crisis can bring the very best out in people. This health crisis has shown the very best in our community, and brought forth a plethora of local businesses that understood how we hurt and are willing to do whatever it took to make our celebration special. I have never been more proud of being an Islander than in these past months.
If we knew that we would be faced with a pandemic six months ago, would we be as creative, resilient, or adaptive as we are now? We may have finished this school year, but we would never have had the opportunity to show the resilience we have shown to date. Our class was born in the shadow of 9/11, and now we graduate during a worldwide pandemic; this class of 2020 has seen a lot.
Creativity, capability, and perseverance is what this class represents. Who knew what Zoom was six months ago? And now this has become one of the most valuable tools for our class to complete our senior year education. We have adapted quickly to change in how we learn, socialize, and achieve, and we have become masters at it all. We have also become creative in our social lives. Instead of birthday gatherings, we now celebrate with birthday parades. We have the resilience to overcome any obstacle or potential setback that presents itself. We have risen in so many ways, and adjusted to the challenges the pandemic has brought us. Through our high school experience we have, together, taken on many hardships and losses, but we have cheered so many more victories.
Today is a victory. A victory because we may have had a bare minimum amount of social interactions for the past three months, but we are all healthy and safe. We have barricaded ourselves in our houses and rested peacefully while the unknown has controlled much of the “outside.” We have done the one thing that an 18-year-old dreads, being stuck in the house with our “beloved” parents, but what a gift it has been also. However, you can’t forget, “it will get better.”
Sept. 5, 2016, we entered the halls of MVRHS as “babies.” In these halls we have survived the daunting amount of work required to graduate, made lifelong friendships, and grown into the people we have desired to become. As the years flew by and the halls became familiar, we flourished. Our bonds with one another strengthened, and many wonderful memories were made. Whether you talk to your closest friends tomorrow or not, you always have a special place for them because of the experiences that our class has had.
The four years attending Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School were a priceless gift in our lives. They were stepping stones toward the future. Whether you are going to college, taking a year off, or pursuing another path in life, our high school and our relationships with each other during those years have prepared and given us the tools for future success. Hello new opportunities, hello new struggles, hello new people, hello new victories, and hello new goals.
COVID-19 had nothing on this class from the start. Rather than obstacles because of the pandemic, we found opportunities. Opportunities to reflect and reevaluate our past, as well as help prepare us to build our futures and the steps needed to achieve them. Our dreams have not changed, but we have adapted and altered the paths to gain these goals.
We have completed our education in spite of everything that’s been happening. We have engraved our initials into history, and in bold letters. We will not be known as the class who did not have graduation, but instead as the class who had the most memorable graduation in history. No one will ever forget the class of 2020. This crisis has taught us that truly anything is possible when you put your mind to it, it all starts with you and me, the class of 2020.
I have one thing to ask you, “What is next, what are you going to do next? What are your wishes, plans, and goals?” If we have learned one thing, it is that the path to our goals is not always achieved in a straight line. Class of 2020, we have done it, we have successfully completed 12 years of schooling to get to where we are now. We have surmounted the hurdles that life throws at us, and then conquered the hurdles COVID-19 has thrown as well. This is a monumental time in our lives, despite all that has gone on. Congratulations, class of 2020, we made it. It goes without saying you are extraordinary. Celebrate today, you are poised to start a new chapter in your life, move forward, stay healthy. Thank you and congratulations.