"Your Time," a Message to the AAP Graduating Class of 2020
"Now is our time. Everything is at stake. So much is changing in the world and we have the ability to change it in the way that we want." Ai-jen Poo
To the AAP Class of 2020—
Typically, graduation day is a moment to congratulate and celebrate. A moment to acknowledge and mark both an end and a beginning. A journey of accomplishments, challenges, and detours that have accumulated as lasting discoveries, lessons, and bonds. An unmapped future of opportunities with great potential. While a written congratulations today may not have the same ring as it would if we were together in Ithaca, it is so important to acknowledge that you deserve to be recognized for all you have done. In fact, it is more important than ever to pause and reflect on your accomplishments—to take a moment for yourself. I know it may be difficult to celebrate your achievements in the current context, but please try to step back so that you can see beyond the incredible resiliency you've shown in the past few months, and reflect on the full arc of your experience. All that you have gained, and all you have given.
Ai-jen Poo, MacArthur award–winning labor activist, shared her thoughts on our place in the changing world earlier this year, before the pandemic. Before our lives were upended in ways that would have then been impossible to imagine, she referred to the new decade as our time. And she was also, without question, speaking about your time—and, your world.
Much like Poo, I think we all saw us entering a decade of action and anticipated a global effort towards needed change. The past few months have shown us that action is something we are prepared for and capable of. And the challenges we have faced not only reveal many of our dependencies and vulnerabilities—but also our shared care and interconnectedness. When you were called to act, uncertainty far outweighed confidence, and yet you gave everything you could to better the outcome for others. These selfless sacrifices and acts of hope will stay with your class and generation.
When I use the word hope, I mean it in an operative sense. Author Rebecca Solnit says it best: "The hope I'm interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It's also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings."
Planning and mapping out a future in times of uncertainty will require both patience and purpose. There will be forking paths and 'openings' along the way. Look into each opening with optimism, compassion, and hope and you will be choosing a path, taking much-needed action, towards a more sustainable, more equitable, more humane, and more beautiful world.
Let me end, where I began. Now is your time. Everything is at stake. So much is changing in the world and YOU have the ability to change it in the way YOU want. I have all the confidence in the world that you will.
In recognition of you and your class,