Editorial: Believing in the future is the best graduation gift any of us can give

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

If ever there was a year that we would have good vision, you would think it would be 2020. But this year already has proven that when it comes to seeing the future, we have anything but 20/20 vision.

The Class of 2020 has been affected by this fact of the human condition more than any other in recent memory. They’ve already lost much: valuable classroom instruction; sports seasons; proms; fellowship with friends and teachers; a proper graduation ceremony and the goodbyes and beginnings that come with it.

Perhaps the biggest loss, though, is optimism. That is a terrible loss for youth because it can be harder to find the older you get.

For the Class of 2020, though, we ought to find it. We have struggled to come up with a gift for these graduates, both from college and high school. Efforts like the flyover that is scheduled to take place over Lawrence at noon today are wonderful gestures, but it still seems like we should be able to offer something more. That would require some of us to pause our anger and frustration for a moment. It is tempting to say don’t extend your arms to point a finger, but rather provide a hug. But the virus makes even that difficult.

Instead, the best gift we can provide the Class of 2020 is no-touch. But you do have to dig deep to find it. It is an honest belief that there is reason to be hopeful for the future. Don’t insult the class with promises that we can’t keep. Don’t tell them that we are counting on them. They don’t need an additional burden. Plus, we all had better be ready to do our part. It will be required. But do tell them — actually say it to a graduate — that we believe there is reason to be hopeful about the future.

The sun will come up tomorrow, and hope will be there on the horizon.

For all those college graduates and their families, we thank you for making this community a part of your lives. Maybe it always has been, and we hope it always will be. We are sorry that it hasn’t ended the way any of us had hoped. Whether you are a graduate of the University of Kansas, Baker, Haskell or somewhere else, we hope Lawrence and Douglas County have been places where you have been able to learn and live in an open manner that has fueled intellectual and emotional growth.

Some towns make cars or airplanes or something else that must be assembled. As a university community, we don’t assemble much, but hopefully we do produce well-rounded individuals. Here’s guessing that the unexpected struggles of 2020 have produced a particularly good class in that regard.

For the high school graduates, know that you haven’t just been a part of this community. For so many, you’ve been the most important part. More people than we can name here wake up each day with the fervent hope that you’ll find your best place in the world. Whether that be a job here or elsewhere, military service, missionary work, public service, college or even a “gap year,” we hope you will find it.

But more than that, we expect you will find it. For many, it won’t be automatic or the first thing that you find. Your class is not the first that will have to navigate twists and turns.

But yes, you are graduating in very unusual times. Not unprecedented times, though. A hundred years ago, graduates had seen more death from the Spanish influenza than you had. Graduates in the 1930s had seen more mind-numbing poverty. And there are far too many decades to list where graduates have been sent into a world that included military drafts and the wars that come with them.

These may not be the best of times, but they also aren’t the worst. They are, though, yours. Live them in a way that you’ll be proud of. If you ever get lost in them, find the horizon. There is always hope on the horizon.

Congratulations and Godspeed.

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