Editorial: The year wasn’t great, but these graduates sure are

photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration

Lawrence Journal-World Editorial

It is an important time in Lawrence and Douglas County: graduation season.

The University of Kansas is hosting its first of two graduation weekends today. The second — for last year’s class that was deprived of walking down the Hill — will be a week from today. Baker University had some ceremonies for various schools Saturday, and its large ceremony for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will be May 22 at its historic Baldwin City campus. Haskell Indian Nations University, which has been in virtual mode for the school year, had a graduation celebration May 7, thanks to the good work of many volunteers who stepped up when school administrators largely fell down on the task of creating a graduation ceremony.

Lawrence High’s graduation is set for Tuesday, May 25, while Free State’s is scheduled for Wednesday, May 26. Veritas Christian School is having its graduation today, while Bishop Seabury will host its ceremony on May 28. Eudora and Baldwin City high schools both will have their ceremonies on May 22. Perry-Lecompton hosted its graduation Saturday.

That’s a whole lot of graduations. That’s a whole lot of great news.

When the school year began, it was far from certain that it would end with a traditional graduation ceremony (maybe some of them will even be mask free, if we simply follow what the CDC says is allowed.) Only a few things were certain at the beginning of the school year. That it would be different was assured, and that it probably wouldn’t be as good as most was pretty likely too.

Let’s be honest, that indeed was true. It wasn’t a great school year. It wasn’t from a lack of effort, though. It is one of the sadder truths of the pandemic, but so many people — teachers, staff, students, parents — worked harder but got less from this school year.

There’s probably a lesson there. Maybe it is that life isn’t fair, but jeez, we’ve all had plenty of opportunity to read that textbook before. Talk about a class that you would like to sleep through. Hopefully there is a better lesson than that to come out of this.

It will take time to determine, but perhaps it will be a lesson in delayed gratification. It sure seems like that is a specialty of the pandemic. Think about it: There was no immediate gratification in wearing a mask. You did so because you thought it would prevent you or someone else from getting sick in the future. Even the vaccine wasn’t immediate with its reward. You have to wait a couple of weeks before you really are inoculated.

Perhaps this is the way to think of this: a waiting period for inoculation. This school year, at times, was like a long, slow vaccination. A needle that never seemed to end. Then there is a waiting period, where you don’t feel like you have much to show for it, other than a sore arm.

In reality — just like the actual vaccine — it was one of the most important things you ever did. The tragedy of the pandemic would have grown at least tenfold if the American education system had truly shut down. Every teacher, every administrator, every staff member, every student, every parent deserves the country’s gratitude for the efforts and sacrifices they made to keep it functioning.

But the importance of this school year goes beyond that. It is much more personal. It was your own inoculation, of sorts. It is not the type that guarantees you a life free from sickness, pain or disappointment. But it is the type that injected your mind, body and spirit with a challenge, and taught you how to fight. Yes, we all lived through it, but not all of us lived through it during our formative years. That’s you. That’s your generation. You’ll never love that fact, but there will be a day that you’ll be gratified by what it did for you.

Delayed gratification: Half of that phrase is a lot more fun than the other. For all of us who aren’t in that generation, let’s not delay a second in expressing our gratitude. Graduates — both this year’s and last year’s — congratulations isn’t enough.

We thank you. We love you. We are counting on you. And you will deliver because you’ve already shown nothing stops you.


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