The class of 2021 emerges from an upside-down year. Rarely have graduates faced such a chaotic combination of events that shattered the normality of life as we once knew it.
The never-ending COVID crisis and its disastrous lockdown policies destroyed normal social life. We experienced a summer of rioting and discontent that could again reignite. A turbulent election still polarizes the nation and brings radical socialist proposals to the horizon. A “Great Reset” has been announced that will change the way we live and work. All these things have turned our lives and future upside down.
Thus, this year’s graduation message must be directed to those entering this world. In crafting a message, we have no templates to follow. There is no object for the bubbly optimism that usually dominates graduation themes. We can only offer a sobering evaluation of what might lie ahead.
Not all graduates will be open to such a message. There will always be those who insist that life will soon return to our youth-obsessed party culture that allows all to indulge in self-gratification, materialist pursuits and promiscuity. These counsels are not for them.
This message is directed only to those young graduates, both high school and university, who have pondered the abnormality of these times and learned some lessons beyond those of the virtual classroom. It targets those graduates, who are more numerous than we imagine, that grieve for the nation and want something more than what existed before COVID.
Accept the Challenge
Our first counsel is to advise graduates to accept the challenge of being thrust into this upside-down world. That means accepting that America has changed this year and will never return to the world that most knew before. This change entails tragedy and suffering that are alien to our culture.
Be resigned to the fact that we are entering times that will force us to face painful realities that prior classes never encountered. This cross can be faced with either resentment or courage. However, it must be met.
Use this opportunity to change for the better by facing adversity with courage. The lessons of suffering are far better than courses and classes. They allow us to grow in maturity and wisdom.
Thus, the class of 2021 should count itself fortunate that it will be put to the test sooner rather than later. The opportunity will allow them to develop their character. What some consider a misfortune, these graduates should consider a blessing.
Be Grounded in Certainties
In our upside-down world, everything is filled with ambiguity, doubt and insecurity. In the words of Czech poet Václav Havel, we live in postmodern times where “everything is possible, and nothing is certain.”
That is not to say that everything taught in the schools is devoid of content. However, the events of 2021 have served to scramble yet more the incertitude of our times. The offensive against truth has entered a new, accelerated and brutal phase.
Thus, graduates must deal with the strange paradox of “un-learning” much of what they were taught at school. The “woke” education establishment is increasingly dominated by a culture that denies reality. Students are taught that whatever they self-identify as is what they are. Critical Race Theory and identity politics leads them to hate our country and the narratives that undergird it. Sexual indulgence invades every part of their lives. A brutal cancel culture crushes all opposition.
More than any time of the past, graduates must reject all these things that serve to un-prepare them for life. Just when certitude is most needed, many educators have taught students to doubt everything—health, economy, history and identity.
Today’s graduates face the tragic situation of achieving success despite their education and not because of it. As they finish this phase in their lives, they must renounce many educational milestones that would have been celebrated in times past.
Thus, a second counsel for 2021 graduates is to be grounded in certainties. Let them be grounded in the certainties still found in family, community and Faith. Let them find relief in the traditions that survive from our Christian civilization. Learn the lessons that suffering will bring. Above all, seek succor in God and Holy Mother Church.
All these things can serve to give guidance and light in a world turned upside down.
Oppose a Decaying Culture
It is not enough to reject this upside-down world.
Thus, the third counsel is to have the courage to seek to make things right. Confront the culture that opposes Christian order even when it seems hopeless.
The obstacles might seem overwhelming, but our culture is rotten. Its accelerated pace of destruction during 2021 also quickened its decay. Indeed, where nothing is certain, nothing can be emphatically affirmed. Postmodernity is marked by a lack of dynamism that weighs it down and diminishes its attraction.
Exploring New Possibilities
For graduates who pondered the future of our nation during 2021, this is the opportunity to explore new possibilities. Graduates can stand out by contrast and break free from the decomposing ruins of a past order gone awry.
They might join the ranks of an increasing number of conservative young people who desire something more than the tired, materialistic and individualistic paradigms that have brought us to our present state. Like prodigal sons, many graduates seek authenticity, tradition and meaning.
Graduates should dare to dream of something completely contrary to the upside-down world in which they presently languish. An order of virtue beckons. The key to fulfilling this program is to embrace it with calm, courage and confidence in Providence.
Thus, graduates need to have recourse to God and the Church. The times demand it. An extraordinary crisis requires proportional aid. We have no choice but to take the supernatural path that allows us to do heroic things beyond our natural capacities.
Put to the Test
To accept challenges, be grounded in certainties and oppose the culture are counsels offered in the face of a crumbling order and an enigmatic future. It harbors the hopes that the graduating class of 2021 will rise to the occasion. The stakes are high because the price of failure is much greater.
Graduates of 2021 of an upside-down world must make a choice. They can be swept away by the growing chaos that engulfs their world, or they can show their mettle by looking beyond the disorder and return to the Father’s house. Let them choose the better option.
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