Congratulations Class of 2021

Vol. 2, Iss. 14 | October 2021

As you prepare to graduate and go on to better things, I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on our experience together, the impact you had upon me, and the promise for a better world that I’m desperately hoping you keep safe for another generation.

Your four years in high school have been marked by some of the worst political chaos and dysfunction modernity has seen. And to top it all off, we’ve plunged into the worst pandemic in 100 years, and we have found ourselves stunningly incapable of rising to the challenge of controlling, mitigating, and defeating this virus. The adults in your life are probably fantastic, but we have all failed you. We have created the conditions for conflict and disorder and haven’t taken the necessary steps to stop this slide into polarization. Many of us have ignored science and expertise and instead retreated into our bubbles and echo chambers where truth has ceased to have meaning. Again, we have allowed fear, selfishness, and greed to dominate. In short, the world we have left you falls short of what you deserve. We have created so many of the systems, the practices, the understandings, and the unthinking reflexes that created the pandemic. They murdered George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and so many others. Climate Change. Sexual violence. This kind of politics is more about “owning” your adversaries rather than improving the world.

But I write this letter from a profoundly optimistic place. In the Spring of 2021, the tides appear to be turning. The virus is on the defensive. Americans have, for the moment, beat back the threat of a fascist coup (at the ballot box, no less), and the incoming administration has embarked upon the most extensive rebuilding program since at least the Great Depression, if not ever. The sun is out, the weather is nice, and we’ve landed another rover on Mars. But my real hope lies in my students.

I have had the opportunity to witness first-hand how you are all agents of change. You are capable of rising to challenges when they are presented. You can put aside selfish and childish things and embrace the need for hard work. You have processed crisis after crisis and continued to show up and work to make the world better for yourselves, your friends, and your families.

Our three years together were marked by stunning growth in the classroom and beyond. Despite the pandemic, I was able to return to work with a group of you on your research papers… Seeing that your hard work had paid off with some honest development as a student was one of my favorite experiences as an educator.

As students before, you never really were; you were also forced to grapple with societal problems severely. The “Me Too” movement led you to explore pervasive sexism and consider your responsibilities to one another as young adults. Many of you marched on City Hall (some more than once) to demand Climate Justice. When racism and white supremacy reared its ugly head at Drew, one incomparable student stood up to say “enough” and lead the rest of you to exact a reckoning upon those who had and continued to be silent. Those lessons continue to serve through the summer and fall of 2020 when many of you took to the streets to protest systemic racism and injustice in the United States. Your time at Drew was also marked by a political climate that had gone from bad to worse to downright insurrectionary. More than any group of high school students since at least the 1960s, if not the 1930s, the lessons you learned in school helped you to interpret the world around you. Or was it the other way around?

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