In watershed times, the Class of 2020 can do anything

Perhaps it is the rest of us who need to challenge ourselves to be as good as they are.

  • Thursday, June 18, 2020 6:46pm
  • Opinion

We at The Beachcomber would like to extend our sincerest congratulations to the Vashon Island High School Class of 2020, receiving their diplomas last weekend to begin a new chapter of their lives that, for one day, could not be overwritten by the story of the virus that took away their final months together.

A parade in their honor drew excited crowds of islanders that gathered together along the main highway — where more than 1,100 marched on Friday — in support of Black Lives Matter. This time, the crowd drew some seated on lawn chairs while practicing social distancing, and others parked on the side of the road to watch. Islanders waved to students and families they recognized and wished to celebrate. Some of the parade-goers commented Some remarked that they enjoyed the event so much, they would like to see it carried on next year. Principal Danny Rock was correct in saying, in a prerecorded address live-streamed online after the parade ended, that the graduates are leaving the school district better than they found it, to make no mention of their employment at local businesses, their volunteer efforts, ambition and integrity.

This is a class that will be remembered, not only for their contributions and character but for the time — this time, right now — when they are emerging as young adults, in a nation and world that is severely lacking in leadership that possesses their same caliber and excellence. We have never lived in an equitable society, and injustices of all malicious kinds remain everywhere. Though commencement speakers have always implored high school seniors to raise the bar, no graduating class from any community, and any generation, has ever been the cure-all for systemic racism, bigotry, and other poisons ailing this country. But we know this class will resolve to confront those ills anyway, and we could not be more grateful to them for their laudable efforts.

More to the point: While this is a time for many of us to examine our own faults and biases, and we rankle with the prospect of reopening states that are not fully prepared to protect their citizens from a virus that has killed more than 118,000 nationally, the pendulum occasionally swings in the direction of fairness and goodness, especially with enough centripetal force of genuine benevolence.

Take Monday’s ruling by the United States Supreme Court that blind-sided many, when a bipartisan majority of justices found that employers cannot fire workers for being gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender, delivering a massive, long-awaited victory to advocates. On another civil rights front, a letter from a reader in this paper asks if the protests over racism and police brutality — among the largest demonstrations in U.S. history — will make lasting change for the better once and for all.

Is this it? We are living in watershed times. Why not now?

There is so much the Class of 2020 has to fear, and so much to fear for them. But they have a tremendous capacity for imagination and a willingness and appetite to bring about progress. Perhaps it is the rest of us who need to challenge ourselves to be as good as they are.

And in that spirit, we would be remiss if not to offer some advice to the graduates. Don’t fall for the same traps that many of your older peers have. Don’t believe that minds cannot be changed. They can. Don’t believe that our culture is too set in its ways. It’s not. Don’t fear that challenges are too great. They’re not, if you work together and seek out those who want to make the same difference you do. Embrace the biggest ideas you have, and take the time you need to execute them.

On that note, don’t forget to take time for yourselves, either.

Best of luck in all of your endeavors. Please write to us some time and tell us all about them.

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