Dear Class of 2020,
By now, you must have watched a lot of commencement speeches from home or I'm sure you've seen many headlines all over the Internet, which is meant to be a positive thing – we all want to celebrate your great achievement!
It must be so strange for you to even process this whole situation. Not that it is less strange to any of us, but I still remember what it felt like to look forward to that one day when I'd be able to wear that gown, walk that walk, turn that confusing tassel to the correct side, and party all night. I’m sure many of you shared that expectation too. But in reality, before that day ever arrived, you had to clear out everything in your dorm room and pack as much as you could in the matter of a few hours, then tried to board your last-minute flight and head home without being able to say your final goodbyes to your friends and teachers. 'Strange' is a very light word.
It's always easier said than done when we're not going through what you're experiencing, but we keep telling you it's going to be ok. I have a younger brother who's a year behind you, and even I said to him: "Lucky you that you're not graduating this year.” I get how hard it is. Especially to some of you who came all the way from your home country to study abroad and contribute greatly to the economy of another country – some of you even risk all you have to pursue the American dream – you’ve already worked so hard to get here, but suddenly you found yourself being woken up by a nightmare called 'pandemic'.
Well, let's look on the bright side. I don't know what doing finals in quarantine is like to you, but it would be a dream come true to me if I were still in school (just saying).
But seriously though, the fact that you can overcome what’s meant to be a great deal to you for the greater good of our community and humanity (not to mention that some of you quirky geniuses even came up with really creative ways to celebrate it!) – it speaks volumes about a generation that is so resilient, humbled, giving, and committed to something bigger than themselves.
I feel like I'm graduating with you. The world is graduating with you.
Perhaps the pandemic also sends us an important reminder that studying doesn't stop at graduation parties, and real life already started before we receive our diplomas.
If there's one thing I've learned since I graduated that I want to share with you today, it is that life is not about finding the right answer. In fact, life doesn’t start with a question and end with an answer. It’s a journey of questioning the questions to arrive at the right questions, then continue adjusting again and again, because neither the questions nor our situation is a constant. We are the only constant in our life. Everything else is a variable.
I won’t tell you everything will be ok, but I can reassure you that the more you put your work into it, the closer it will get to how you want it to be. And that’s because life doesn't give you the answer to study, and there is no such thing as one correct answer to every question. It is a series of trial and error experiments, of picking a few possibilities out of all the possibilities and trying your best to make them right.
But even more importantly, have fun with them!
You may not have the story that everyone else has, but you have your own unique story. You already made history. Keep writing and sharing it with the world. I'll look forward to reading yours one day, as I'm sure I’ll learn so much from it and I'll be inspired.