Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
Dear Class of 2021,
The invisible enemy changed everything; toilet paper turned to gold, masks were no longer only for Halloween, being socially distant didn’t mean sitting alone at a party, and the choice of your seat could send you into quarantine hell. For two years, we have mourned experiences, freedoms, and even loved ones lost. Family celebrations, time with friends, performances, athletics, college visits, and just going to school were ripped away. While it's difficult to see, this time also bestowed an extraordinary ability upon each of you.
The global pandemic imbued an almost superhuman power - have you discovered it; more importantly, will you use it? Covid 19 stripped away the distractions and comforts of everyday life, laying bare, with superpower clarity, a summoning to look at ourselves, those around us, and the world anew, and maybe seeing them for the first time - if you possess the courage.
Life in lockdown compelled a reconsideration about who is truly essential in our lives. The individuals in our day-to-day interactions, often invisible and overlooked, were suddenly made visible and valued. Afraid to leave our homes, we locked ourselves away. Grocery clerks, Walmart workers, truckers, and gas station attendants ventured out every day, uncertain of risk to themselves and their families, revealing the sacrifice made by the “ordinary” people in our lives.
The pandemic amplified the tragic toll of poverty in our midst, our nation, and the world. We retreated to safe spaces, stayed connected with technology, blessed with resources, and thankful for Uber Eats. Some of your classmates struggled for food and shelter, relying on the goodwill of others.
As I write, a vaccine is available across the US; in less fortunate countries, there is no such hope. Polio and smallpox were eradicated from the earth by a vaccine. It is unclear if the world will unite to eradicate Covid 19. The lessons of the pandemic remind us that even when science provides answers, there is disagreement. History, our teacher, is often ignored.
What is your hope as you leave us? There are no simple answers. Throughout this time, we have been offered conflicting “truths” and asked to choose sides - wear a mask or not, vaccinate or not? Reject the idea that you must choose sides. Choose what you believe is right, be critical and fair, seek an answer rooted in truth. America should be in constant pursuit of a more perfect union for all of its people. It is possible to aspire to a more just society for black and brown Americans and still respect and support the police; gun reform and support of the Second Amendment are not incompatible. You can wear a mask, be vaccinated, and respect individual freedom. The pandemic made explicit, our lives and well-being are inextricably linked. The people we encounter every day matter, and our choices make a difference in each other’s lives.
Finally, the most profound feat of the global pandemic has been to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Pre-pandemic, your wish list likely included a great vacation, the latest iPhone, a spectacular party. Would you trade those wishes for two years of school every day with friends, to sit anywhere in the cafeteria, to perform in person, to play your entire season, to hug a family member.
I am so deeply proud of all you’ve accomplished under these difficult and historic circumstances. Still, and most importantly, I hope the pandemic has transformed you and been your most profound teacher. No day is ordinary; every person you encounter should be seen, valued, and cared for ...Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
Please go forth, transformed, and perform extraordinary acts of love and hope.
Louis N. Wool, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools