By Elizabeth Cotter ’20
Hello everyone and welcome to the graduation ceremony for Class of 2020! I’m so happy we could all be together today, and I couldn’t be prouder of our class… we made it, guys! I’m so honored that my classmates voted to have me speak to all of you. But most importantly, I’m proud of everyone here today because, unlike the past few months, none of us are wearing sweatpants. That’s what I call progress ladies and gentlemen.
In all seriousness, we’re here today to reflect on the good times we’ve had together as a class and talk about the future. I’m not going to start at the very beginning– despite its reputation as a very good place to start– but instead, I’m going to begin with the future. The future is always uncertain, but right now it is even more so. Our lives have been turned upside down, and we don’t know when it will end or when a crisis like this will happen again. Even though the future is scary, I feel that our experiences over these past four years indicate that we will be able to adapt. We maintained our sense of calm through multiple administration changes, rose to the challenge of following the schedule which seemed to impossibly get more complicated and convoluted each year, protected our homebase when our lounge was closed by moving the couches outside the technical “lounge area”, and learned to tell time by the sun when our clock was smashed by our favorite absolute unit. Right now, the world needs people with flexible and innovative mindsets. It is up to us to use our past experiences and the new skills we’ll acquire in the future to make sure we make the world a better place.
This pandemic is something we’ve all had to adapt to, and already I’ve seen a change in the character of our class. Our “brand” if you will, is that we’ve always been the class with the least school spirit. We never cheered at the grade-by-grade roll-call during those first-day-of-school assemblies, and we always placed last at pep-rallies, even as we became upperclassmen. That may sound bad, but our “anti-spirit” has been a sort of bonding for us, and honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for more traditional school spirit. Interestingly though, over these past few months, I’ve seen a change. Our unspoken bond forged from rejecting seemingly harmless practices has evolved with the recognition that our time together is drawing to a close… and with less finesse than I think any of us could have imagined. In the wake of our change, I’ve seen enthusiastic participation in the things we used to find enjoyment in rejecting. We even exerted the extra effort to create a socially distant senior skip day— Thanks to Evelyn and Riley for planning that.
I think our change in character mirrors what this quarantine has taught me– we need to seize every opportunity to connect with our fellow humans. The incredible connectivity given to us by air travel apparently has a very steep price that will likely continue to manifest from time to time. So, during our newly-revered periods of normalcy, we need to bond with each other. I’ve watched enough inspirational speeches and TED talks to know that in 30 years I won’t remember my standardized test scores or my grades in any of my classes, but I hope I will forever remember collectively making the bold artistic decision to do the Maypole dance barefoot last year, saluting the state anthem of the Soviet Union in front of the entire upper school, and the infamous Lounge War of 2019. When world crisis strikes again and face-to-face interaction is scarce, I know I’ll truly cherish memories like these.
As we move into the next chapter of our lives, we can anticipate it will be more academically demanding than our four years in high school, but I hope we all take the time to make personal and meaningful memories. Because who knows when the next time will be that we’ll have to distance from each other again.
I wanted to keep this speech fun and light-hearted because this is supposed to be a time for celebration, but I think it would be wrong to gloss over the tragedy that is tearing our nation apart. Let’s have a moment of silence for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and all victims of racially motivated police brutality. As we head into the world, we need to recognize the effects of systemic racism and learn how to be better allies, which is going to mean doing more than making blackout posts on Instagram. It’s going to mean listening– really listening– to black voices and taking on this struggle as our own. If you would like more information on being an ally, guidetoallyship.com is a good resource.
Speaking for each member of the Class of 2020, I say “thank you” to our friends and family for your love and support through this wild ride called “growing up”. We would not be the same people we have become without each and every one of you. Thank you to all the coaches, theatre directors, and mentors who have shaped our extracurricular lives and transformed us into hard-working, passionate and well-balanced people beyond the classroom. Thank you to the lunch ladies for nourishing us during the day, and thank you to the AC staff for keeping our campus beautiful and lively. Thank you also to the administration and all the AC family who lovingly insisted there be a special day to celebrate the Class of 2020 and painstakingly created exactly that. As much as today is a day to celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class, it is also a day to appreciate the tremendous amount of work our teachers have devoted these past four years. Thank you for inspiring us to work hard, while recognizing that we are not just a wave of students, but individuals with complicated lives that can affect our academic pursuits. I can’t count how many of my Zoom meetings have started with my teacher asking “So how is everyone feeling today?”. Even if we never took you up on the opportunity to divulge all our new-found quarantine habits, stressors and emotions, just knowing you cared has been appreciated.
Finally, one small thank you just from me: Thank you Class of 2020 for all the wonderful memories and the inclusive, supportive atmosphere we created together. Thank you for being tolerant, kind-hearted, open-minded people who will surely make a positive impact on the world.