By Nicole Santini –
My son, Connor, is a member of the Class of 2020. Right now we should be planning graduation parties and attending end of year banquets and festivities. We should be reminiscing about prom and all of the fun times that go along with senior year. Sometimes I wonder if all of the things they are missing are harder for us, as parents, than they are for our kids? Maybe Connor will never really understand how great all of the things he missed out on could have been? The only thing I know for sure is that whatever is guiding this “virtual” movement has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with intentionally changing American culture.
Once it became clear that the Covid-19 pandemic was going to greatly effect the graduating class of 2020, the memes and quotes started making the rounds on social media. Some were hilarious, others sentimental, and some were, well, snide. The one that really irked me said the following:
If students think their Senior Year has been ruined, remind them that in 1964-70, many seniors took their Senior Trip to Vietnam.
Well, no. This is factually inaccurate. The US government didn’t draft current high school students, or even students enrolled in college.
To this day, one of my father’s greatest regrets is that after he graduated with his bachelor's degree, he didn’t immediately enroll in grad school. Instead he graduated from college and was almost immediately drafted and sent to Vietnam.
Both my father and biological father (not a typo) were in Vietnam. Vietnam wasn’t a blunder. It was a mismanaged, misguided mess of a tragedy. We lost tens of thousands of our best and brightest young men in a war that was poorly executed, and in the end, meant little. America’s sons, who should be going back in forth in rocking chairs right now, talking about their grandkids; came home in boxes instead. To even compare high school graduation with Vietnam is absurd. But since so many think the comparison is apt, or even clever, I feel compelled to explain why it’s not.
The Class of 2020 didn’t send their grandparents to Vietnam. The people at whom fingers could be pointed are mostly gone from this earth. Also interesting is the fact that I don’t see a lot of Vietnam Vets posting this quote. That’s probably because, in their wildest dreams, they would never put that burden on their grandchildren. They want the world for the Class of 2020! They probably have higher aspirations for the Class of 2020 than the grads do for themselves. I know my dad would never dream of making that comparison, and he was in Vietnam!
Since when has the bar by which we measure our children’s accomplishments been so tragic? “Well, it could be worse! At least you’re not in Vietnam! At least you’re not dead.” But this is what I’m hearing on a daily basis, and reading on social media multiple times a day. The bar for the Class of 2020 just keeps getting lower and lower.
There are many who either seem to relish the shutdown for political reasons or are so scared out of their wits, they will defend it well after it has outlived its usefulness. These folks say things like, “I’m so sad for our Senior Class, but lives matter more” (Hate doesn’t live at these people’s houses either). Of course protecting the vulnerable is important, but since when have we cancelled life’s milestones for a pandemic? Or even a terrorist attack? My oldest son still had his soccer game on 9/11 for God’s sakes! Remember Winston Churchill’s “keep calm and carry on”? These people never acknowledge the moving of the goalposts from slowing the spread to flattening the curve, to now – finding the cure. What? It goes without saying that lives matter, but It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be fighting for a way to give our kids a graduation ceremony in the safest manner possible or athletic season or honors banquet! This virus could be around for years. Are we willing to allow our young adults not to experience life? Since when do we throw up our hands and say, “Oh well”? Again – the bar has lowered.
What about those kids, who worked harder than everyone else, with the dream of walking up on that stage for honors night? Those kids don’t often get recognized by a stadium full of fans the way athletes do. What about those kids? Yes, they will benefit in life, but they can never get this moment back. Apparently they should suck it up, because it’s better than Nam.
I find myself romanticizing about the days when our graduates would have to fight for minimum wage summer jobs. Now they are being told by Congresswomen, like AOC, that they should refuse to work, and fight for government handouts instead. My college-aged son has not been able to work for two months. He used to work as a bar tender to make money for school. Now he’s being told he’s “non-essential”. Talk about a lower bar.
Schools all over the nation are cancelling rites of passage in favor of “virtual” graduations, as if that’s a perfectly acceptable solution. Our kids are being subjected to “virtual” school, “virtual” social lives, “virtual” medical care, “virtual” religious services, “virtual” commerce… and now “virtual” graduations? There are many who are advocating for colleges to go online permanently. Some advocate the same approach for public and private elementary and secondary schools. Our children are being taught that it’s ok to live a “virtual” life – and many are standing up to applaud!
I understand the reality of the situation. Despite the fact that Covid-19 cases are on the decline worldwide, institutions are afraid of lawsuits. Despite the fact that Covid-19 rates are negligible for people under the age of 19, communities and governors are pressuring schools to shut down all “in-person” activities. But that doesn’t mean it’s ok. It’s not ok to lie down while our freedoms are systematically taken away by our state and local governments. It’s not ok to prevent freedom of speech and divergent ideas because of a crisis. And it’s not ok to tell the Class of 2020 to suck it up. It could be worse. You could be dead.
Class of 2020, I wish I could change the world you are graduating into, but never doubt that your families love you and expect great things from you. Always remember to listen to different points of view. Be quick to question, but slow to comment. Work hard and never expect something for nothing. Be kind and be safe, but never be guided by fear. Whether you choose college or military service or trade school, never settle for a “virtual” existence.
Above all – keep that bar raised high!
Nicole Santini is a 2020 graduate's mother that lives in DuPage County
Very well said!
Well written and articulated. Thank you for expressing in words what so many people are thinking.
So proud of these kids and so sad for all they have missed.
So proud of these kids and so sad for all they have missed.
You make an excellent observation of this push to go “virtual” for everything. I’m not buying into the rush to online life and want to reopen Illinois especially. schools, colleges, and churches today.
Illinois politicians and our governor appear to using this crisis as a power grab while destroying jobs, commerce, and lives. My opinion is schools and colleges should had never closed and need to reopen now starting with summer school. Online is no substitute for classroom and human interaction.
Again great letter to the editor, I’m looking forward to your next article.
Brilliant insight, having written this amidst the pandemic! Now, a year later, your well-made points hold even more truth! Even after our 911 tragedy, we banded together to help others & resume life as normally as possibly, while healing, as a country. Our Patriotism grew from this tragedy. Likewise, we, as a nation, need to embrace & support our youth & actively defend their right to experience life’s milestones, properly! As a group, at large, of being least affected by Covid-19, this virtual life imposed upon them is preposterous! Good for you for calling Them out & urging our impressionable youth to set their own bar High! Kudos for speaking out even during the uncertainty while this was written! You are 💯% right in sharing your wisdom! Thank You for articulating what we all know and yet hardly speak of during this mass censorship campaign! God Bless you & our children! May they resist the indoctrination upon them!