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2020 Upper School Graduation Class Speaker – Madeline Daniel

I was born just a few days before the twin towers fell. Time stood still. The US, and arguably the world, entered a new era of history. My classmates and I were all born within just a few months of this turning point. We entered childhood during an era shift, and now, as we, quote on quote, “exit” childhood, we are in the midst of another. 

Before all of this happened I was so bored with the normal, mundane school life. My senioritis was through the roof, and I was hoping all the time for a break. And then COVID19 appeared. At first, it was just a whisper in the news. It felt so far away. Then, it showed up in the US. Still, it seemed like nothing to worry about. It was only a few isolated cases, and besides, it was just a cough, right? Just wash your hands, and you’ll be fine. Then, seemingly overnight, it snowballed. Everything changed. COVID19 was here and much scarier than we thought. And before our eyes, our senior year was gone. Our entire high school experience ended on a random Friday in March, with no warning. No more prom, no more spirit week, no more senior end-of-the-year events, no more traditional graduation ceremony. All of it, gone. Just like that. 

I think I speak for all of us when I say this pandemic made us realize that we took the mundane for granted. In fact, during this quarantine, the mundane is what I’ve missed most. I wish I could go back to sitting in the alcove with all my friends, and running to Whole Foods during free periods, and getting scolded for being too loud in the hallways. I miss the “every day” of high school life. I know for a fact that all of my classmates are feeling the same way. Although all of our “every days” looked different, they’re all over now. And I don’t think many of us realized how hard it would be to lose them. I wish I had said goodbye to you all before this all happened. 

I think the fact that we all came together to make graduation as special as possible during a global pandemic is a perfect example of what makes this class unique. We have always been able to make the best of difficult, imperfect situations. We’re a class of making do. I’ll be honest, it’s not always easy, and I think all of my classmates would agree with me.  As you can tell, this class is small, even by Roycemore standards. There are 13 of us. Only 3 of us have been here since middle school. We only have one “lifer”. Starting in 9th grade, we’ve essentially built this group from scratch. And today, we have a group of really amazing people. Even though we haven’t always been the closest or most tightly linked class, I think there’s a really strong, unspoken bond that connects us all. We are all much more than meets the eye. We’re all multidimensional people, and I think it’s so amazing whenever we uncover more layers of this group. We’ve had some unfortunate circumstances through our school careers, but, as cliche as it sounds, it’s really only made us stronger. 

During all of this, it is really easy to feel like a victim. I know I’m guilty of it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Viruses don’t discriminate. They don’t care who’s graduating. We all need to work hard to shed this victim mindset because all it does is make us miserable. Right now, it’s more important than ever to be selfless and compassionate to others, but to also do what we can to take care of ourselves. We shouldn’t think of ourselves as victims, but we also need to take time and mourn. Everyone here has faced loss in the past few months, whether it be a graduation, a job, a sense of security, a loved one, or any of the countless other things that have been taken away. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to grieve. If I had to give a piece of advice to my classmates, and the audience as well for that matter, it’s this: wash your hands and be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect yourself to be or feel perfectly normal, because right now, the world is anything but. 

We are becoming a chapter in a history book. We will be the first group of people to enter adulthood after this pandemic, just as we were the first people to enter the world after 9/11. Inevitably, it’s going to shape our future, and it’s going to shape our identities. This is arguably going to be one of the most important periods of time in any of our lives. I wish we could all be together in person today to celebrate. What a bizarre way to grow up. 

At Roycemore, we have always referred to graduation as a commencement ceremony. I think that applies particularly well this year. Here we are, at the commencement of a new era. The rest of our lives starts here. Class of 2020, welcome to the beginning of a new normal. Welcome to our future. Thank you.