The Class of 2020’s final days at GW have been upended by a pandemic, leaving them to watch University President Thomas LeBlanc confer their degrees on a computer instead of in the backdrop of the National Mall.
Graduates did not end their college careers in the way they imagined. They could not surround themselves with friends and family, they could not receive hugs and flowers from their family and they could not take their quintessential #OnlyAtGW picture in front of the Lincoln Memorial. But whether they liked it or not, the class set an example for what it truly means to make the best out of difficult circumstances. Their sacrifices should be commended and remembered as we work to return to normal in the coming months.
It’s not the first challenge the Class of 2020 faced during their time at GW. Graduates have needed to adjust to a new University president and several new administrators, saw changes to their dining plans and participated in historic protests following the presidential election, school shootings and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. With every experience, the class was able to learn about what it means to advocate and ultimately adapt to change. They may have not known it at the time, but with every curveball they were thrown, they grew a bit more.
Now, their Commencement was scrapped because of a public health crisis. And once they head into the world, graduates will face a declining economy, skyrocketing unemployment rates and uncertainty over when the pandemic will subside. They deserved better than a virtual graduation ceremony, but the class should know that they have demonstrated what it means to take everything with a grain of salt and adjust.
It would be easy to fall into a black hole about now: your graduation isn’t going as planned, you need to find a job in the middle of a pandemic and the state and health of our nation is in question. Even with all these negatives, I have still seen countless graduation pictures of people in their cap and gown, surrounded by family, in their childhood home or in their apartment, trying to make the best of this situation.
The Class of 2020 is an inspiration to us all. When we start to complain about the mundane things in life like finals or our potentially annoying roommates, we should all remember what the Class of 2020 endured. They took the time to be upset, then adapted to the change and continued to celebrate with smiles on their faces.
While many of our graduating class have every reason to wallow, many are getting right to work. Those graduating with degrees in medicine and health sciences are preparing to enter a workforce that is on the front lines of fighting the pandemic. Those graduating with degrees in political science or international affairs are aiming to work toward a more just world and democracy. Some who don’t yet have a job are still working as essential personnel in grocery stores and businesses. Their commitment and discipline should inspire us all to work harder and appreciate what we have right now.
The Class of 2020 should know that if they can endure a pandemic as they enter the workforce, they can tackle pretty much anything. This year’s graduates are flexible and dedicated – we shouldn’t forget about them as we continue our time at GW.
Hannah Thacker, a rising junior majoring in political communication, is the opinions editor.