Every year around this time, members of council are invited to attend the high school graduation ceremony.
It’s an opportunity for us to not only salute individual students, but to also recognize the contribution of our youth to the community.
This year, due to COVID-19, there will be no ceremony.
You’re in the feelies, it’s understandable.
Everyone should be able to celebrate their achievements.
If this was going to happen to anyone, it was going to happen to you, Class of 2020.
Because you were different from the start. You were born into a world reeling from the 9/11 attacks.
You have seen the impacts of war with the arrival of refugees in our community.
You’ve seen the impacts of the opioid crisis with overdoses and deaths of people you know.
You’ve seen the impacts of climate change with unprecedented wildfires and flooding.
Now – surprise! – you’re graduating in the middle of a pandemic.
The upheavals you’ve experienced throughout your early life, culminating in these bizarre final few months of your graduating year, has given you inner strength, even if you don’t yet realize it.
You have learned that life is uncertain and nothing is promised. In the process, you have become resilient.
You’re going to hear a lot more about resilience as you step out into the world.
Whether we’re talking about individuals or society, business or government, community or country, there will increasingly be a need to bounce back from crises and adapt to new normals.
Not everybody has an ineffable quality to be knocked down and get back up stronger.
But you do. You’re proving it right now.
You won’t get your moment to parade into the arena and party like it’s 1999. But you’ve found other ways to celebrate and capture your graduation through photo shoots, videos and social media. You’ve had to innovate.
Innovation is another word you’re going to hear more often.
Increasingly, the ability to resolve problems — personal and societal — will depend on doing things differently.
Not everybody knows how to think outside the box. But you do. Again, you’re proving it right now.
You’re living history, and already you have quite a story to tell about your graduation. About how you crossed an empty stage in an empty theatre to receive your diploma. About being all dressed up with no place to go. About how a pandemic made you boldly go where no grad had gone before.
The ability to share a good story will serve you well.
Facts and figures have their place but it’s our stories that create lasting impressions and help us make sense of this crazy world.
For many cultures, including most First Nations, storytelling is the foundation for learning and relationship building. Indigenous writer and storyteller Thomas King says a great way to start a story is with the words: “You’ll never believe what happened.”
Not everybody knows how to tell a good story. But you do. When talking about grad, you’ll forever be saying, “You’ll never believe what happened.”
So even if your graduation hasn’t gone as expected, be proud of your accomplishments and know your future is so bright you’ll have to wear shades.
Your resilience, innovation and storytelling will get you through the tough times of today and you will emerge as the leaders of a better tomorrow.
Class of 2020, the force will be with you.
Doug Holmes is a Summerland councillor and parent of a 2020 graduating student.
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