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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Commentary: A tribute to the graduates of 2020 — a graduation nobody will forget

The generation with the future in their hands and their sacrifices getting there 

The year 2020 was intended to be one of new beginnings. But as we all know, fate decided otherwise. All of a sudden, the world did a 180 and changed its axis of normalcy without warning. Unequipped for such life-altering circumstances, we were left feeling useless and scattered.

A long-awaited Spring Quarter of daily sunbathes on the Quad and the crème de la crème of Davis social life — Picnic Day — vanished. The revival that Spring Quarter brings after a groggy period of sweatpants and rain was commandeered by social distancing orders. And in return, a Spring Quarter in quarantine. 

I am fortunate enough to speak from experience as a second-year, but the first-year students were robbed of their first Spring Quarter, of living in a school-sanctioned 24/7 slumber party and of their last quarter of all-you-can-eat late-night cookies from the Dining Commons — like a bottle taken from a baby. 

They will, however, get their taste of glory in the years ahead. As for the class of 2020, they were swindled out of their last big shebang of college and left with a postponed graduation ceremony and an uncertain future. 

On May 28, 2020, I sat in the dining room of my childhood home and watched my brother perched in front of a screen with a tie on top and boxers on the bottom for his fifth grade promotion over Zoom. Every year, the fifth grade class chooses a motto that describes their final year of elementary school. 

“We’re still together, even if far apart,” is what they chose. 

These fifth graders held their heads up high and made the most of this anticlimactic step into their unknown futures. I admire their strength at such a young age to adapt and gather together as a community in such an unpredictable time. 

Their perseverance reminded me of former President Barack Obama’s “Graduating Together” virtual commencement speech given on May 18, 2020. With guest stars The Jonas Brothers, Dua Lipa, “King James” and many more, this celebration commemorated the graduates of this unprecedented year. 

Although directed toward high school graduates, his commencement speech is applicable to all graduates, from grade school to graduate school. Obama’s efforts seemed to be directed towards the overall youth of America. 

“With so much uncertainty, […] this is your generation’s world to shape,” he said. 

Criticizing the current government for the state of the world and America’s “deep-rooted” problems, Obama urges this generation of graduates to do three things: 

One: Don’t be afraid. This is not the first time America has seen hardship. Learn from past mistakes and grow from them. 

Two: Do what you think is right. Harness values that will last, and don’t take the easy route; work for what you believe in. 

Three: Build a community. Nobody does big things all alone; we need support from others. It takes a village. 

Every graduation marks a step further into adulthood. At a time like this, adulting can be intimidating. Nothing is a given, and the future is unknown. However, what we do know is that we’re not alone. 

The latin prefix “com-” in words such as “combine” or “community,” is also found in “commencement” means “with” and “together.” It is in the roots of the word and in the roots of this generation to come together and combat an unexplored territory — the future. 

Written by: Sierra Jimenez — arts@theaggie.org


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