Today I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the class of 2020.
It’s been over two months and just shy of one week since the shut-down orders in California went into effect, and as this writing series stretches into the end of the school-year, I realize that I would be remiss not to address the class of 2020 for a moment.
Students, let’s be heard:
To be a graduating senior at this time is to trade your one-way ticket for the journey of a lifetime for a one-way entry into the challenge of a lifetime.
It is to leave one of the most familiar institutions in your life for a globe that’s just teeming into newfound uncertainty.
And it is to be introduced, to a world that needs far more exposure if it is to change.
In Los Angeles, over the span of two months, we’ve learned much about the world here that we might have already known, but which, just in case we’d forgotten, has come back resoundingly for us to keep in mind:
The world has come to accept an unacceptable inequality.
The world is profoundly in need of new leadership.
The world needs new voices to lead these calls.
The fact of the matter is, in times of great crisis, much of the world is convinced that the only resolution is to “get back to normal.”
But if normal in this country is far and away a time spent waging wars, incarcerating the poor, and pricing the most vulnerable among us out of their homes, is that a “normal” that we should want to go back to?
This is what our elected officials mean by “normal.”
But if normal in this country is indebting first-generation college students, and maintaining racialized job markets upon their graduation to solidify racial hegemony, and offering all of these students and workers only the most basic benefits and health services in low-wage work, is that a “normal” that’s optimal for us to go back to?
Remember also that normal is a world in which Black, Brown, and white children in the United States still go hungry, in which people over the age of 65 have no health-care during the most important days of their lives, and in which Wal-Mart executives would rather let their full-time employees live on food stamps instead of raising their wages.
I believe the students have to scrutinize this “normality” better than anyone in the days going forward.
I also believe that America needs the students, as well as their parents, to see America for what it truly is in this way.
A world that is not fair; a world that has actually spent an immeasurable amount of time and energy in arresting the development of generations of people, in effect bolstering inequality, and a world which can only grow more unequal if we don’t take this moment, that is, this next decade, to stand for something better.
Class of 2020, I congratulate you, not only for all your hard work leading up to and in spite of this moment, but also because America will benefit greatly from your exposure to this stark reality. In the days ahead, no matter what may lie ahead, I promise you this: my voice will not be far.