What a challenging time this is for all of us. But for you, the graduating class of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially difficult and unfair. An important chapter of your life is closing under unimaginable circumstances.
Because my daughter is part of your class, I know firsthand how profoundly disappointing this is.
Even two months ago, none of us could have imagined things would play out like this – the loss of proms, extracurricular activities, gatherings with friends, and traditional graduation ceremonies.
And so, it is perfectly natural for you to think about what should have been.
Time, however, passes. Wounds heal. And your greatest adventures are yet to come. I am confident your thoughts soon will shift away from what should have been to what comes next.
I have learned that one of the best ways we prepare ourselves to move forward is by looking back. Our nation’s 244 years are marked by the overcoming of obstacles that, at the time, seemed insurmountable.
Ours is a nation that perseveres. Generations of Americans have been tested by circumstances out of their control, grew from the experience, and lived lives of importance and achievement. I know that each of you is stronger than the challenges confronting you.
This is also a time for gratitude. All of us have been shaped by those who helped us along the way. Parents. Grandparents. Teachers. Coaches. Mentors. Neighbors. And so many more.
These are people who supported you in good times and bad, opened your minds to new ideas and possibilities, offered encouragement, advice, and direction.
The truth is that these people need you. We all need you. There is important work to be done, and you can make a difference.
We need you to take what we have done well and make it better. And we need you to take all we have gotten wrong and fix it.
We need you to devise new solutions for old problems. And we need you to develop the skills and ingenuity required to resolve issues none of us today can begin to contemplate.
We also recognize the need for us to do our part, to provide you with the training, education, encouragement, and experience you will require to confront the challenges awaiting your generation.
I also would ask that, as you journey through your lives, you remember the importance of being compassionate, empathetic, and kind.
How we care for the most vulnerable defines us more than any accomplishment or achievement.
It is my most fervent hope that you not just achieve great things, but that you do it in a way that speaks to the best and kindest part of your nature and never leaves behind the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Finally, to each member of the graduating class of 2020, know that we are proud of you.
We have watched your journey from grade school to middle school to high school. We have celebrated your successes and felt pride as you got back up after being knocked down.
You stand on the precipice of boundless change. And like past generations who found themselves in this position, the class of 2020 will rise to the challenge.
You’ve got this.
Congratulations on your achievements. All of us at Idaho National Laboratory are looking forward to the great things to come and stand prepared to assist your efforts any way we can.
Now, go and save the world.