June 17, 2020
By: Chairman T.D. Jakes
Dear 2020 Graduates,
By now, you’ve all had to wrestle with missing out on traditional rites of passage: prom, parties, the pomp and circumstances of cheap gowns and expensive gifts, teary-eyed parents and the achy knees of proud grandparents climbing up the stairs for a good seat. This year, the shouts of your peers and parents, aunties and family have been effectively silenced. Instead, they have all retreated to sheltering at home or stealthily gone back to the nervousness of working in a terroristic environment of an invisible assailant.
Though far from traditional, your virtual celebration has been legendary, featuring guest appearances by some of our country’s best and brightest. The great and famous have come from every corner innovatively and bombastically in tribute to you. Your guest list has included some of the most affluent, influential and prominent voices in the country. They all rang out like an orchestra synchronizing in their support, encouragement and recognition of your austere determination to achieve.
For many of you, your life’s journey began near or around Y2K. You survived all the angst of the turning of a millennium only to emerge from high school or college into the chaos of an international pandemic that sent one-third of the planet to their room like children on punishment. Too many others, sadly, slipped from time into the vacuum of eternity without the benefit of an appropriate goodbye.
To be honest, all graduates receive their degrees or diplomas feeling apprehension and varying degrees of heightened angst. They’re very much like babies pushed from academic wombs. Instead, you tossed aside your tassels, removed your cap, and discarded your gowns to step into the world of resumes, job searches, networking and bills arriving in your name. Your unique circumstances put you in a class of utter and complete distinction. Literally, no one could say with certainty, ” I know how you feel” because we do not!
Class of 2020, you processed into a commencement exercise aside sterilized subways, empty grocery store shelves, and the almost unbearable feeling of an uncertain global prognosis. But this is your red carpet. This is the runway from which you will take flight. Although some will only see the obstacles, I encourage you to look past the talking heads of late-night television shows and 24-hour news cycles and see that the runway has only been cleared so that you can take us where none have ever gone before.
Clearly, this is not your parent’s world. It will likely never fully return to what my generation calls normal. But our normal was not your natural. So, you are free to be the architects of a new and improved version of America. Desperation calms the arrogant and subdues the narcissistic. Your fresh ideas will not be brushed off, not now, not anymore.
You are the innovators of what’s next, not just what’s new. While the world works tirelessly in biochemical labs, you have a clean sheet of drafting paper to etch out the blueprint to a better America. Disruption is often the pathway to destiny. It deconstructs the status quo, forcing new ideas to the front of our sensibilities.
Move quickly! Before systemic genderism, racism and politicization can force you to the back of the bus. While the world seeks to regain its balance, you have the power to redesign cities and create a greener society. You could be the generation our parents prayed for, the more equitable society we marched for and bled and died for. Reimagine the businesses that are closing, reconfigure the companies’ filing for bankruptcy, lobby Washington, redesign government, stop human cruelty before we slide back into business as usual.
Lay the foundation for a world with peace and love and mutual respect. I believe you are special. I believe you are God’s succession plan for the sustenance of this planet. You are, in fact, His idea of a peaceful transference of power. You are no longer backstage. Today, you’re upfront and out front.
My prayer for you is that you will have the courage to move from being a mere voyeur to becoming the change we seek. With God on your side and the experience of our collective sensibilities, I believe that you can help create a better tomorrow. Ladies and gentlemen, no more criticisms of “then,” no more procrastinating about “now.” The whole world has turned its head to hear what you have to say. So, with great faith in yourself and the God who gave you this captive audience, clear your throat, throwback your head, open wide your mouth and speak. The world is listening to you!
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