2020 graduates: we celebrate with you 

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, June 10, 2020

By Rep. Daniel Elliott

To the Boyle County High School, Danville High School, Kentucky School for the Deaf and Danville Christian Academy 2020 graduates, I want to extend my congratulations and best of luck on your future endeavors. You have worked and prepared your whole life for the day you get to hear your name called, walk across a stage, and receive your diploma. Senior year is a special milestone. For high school graduates, it means moments like senior prom, senior night, and saying goodbye to classmates you have known as long as you can remember.

Over the past few years, you learned a lot about subjects like math, language arts, social studies, and science. Without a doubt, these lessons are important and prepare you to navigate the post-graduate world. However, even more importantly, you have also learned a lot about the person you aspire to be. Hopefully, you have learned that your character and integrity are far more important than your popularity. Perhaps you understand that how you make someone feel about themselves is far more important than any words you can say. I pray that you also know that you are worthy and capable of great things. These lessons come together in one question – what will define you? Who you will be in our world?

I’m not talking about what you are going to do for a living because our society and economy have a place for all career paths. After all, plumbers need cardiologists just like cardiologists need plumbers. I am asking specifically about what type of person you are going to become.

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Because of COVID-19, you have not enjoyed the traditional graduation experience. It is okay to feel cheated because your graduation ceremonies were altered. Just do not let this disappointment define you. Some have tried to put your experience into perspective by reminding us that previous generations of graduates faced even more troubling times – including wars. It is true, your experience is certainly less deadly. But, it does not diminish the fact that you worked hard with the understanding that you would be able to celebrate. It does not seem fair, does it? The fact of the matter is, sometimes life is not fair. Sometimes, you do what you are supposed to do, and still do not get what you were supposed to get. Again, do not let this disappointment define you.

Of course, not only have your graduation plans been hijacked, but our entire world is also staring down a crisis of historic proportions. A crisis that impacts our health, our financial well-being, and our sense of community. There are those who seek to divide us, to pit us against each other. I want you to understand that neither COVID nor any other challenge has a chance when we stand together. You can disagree, but you cannot let our differences define you.

Instead, choose to be defined by the resilience of your generation because life is about being steadfast enough to make a plan, and flexible enough to break it. Your class may have been denied a big in-person graduation, but you found a way to celebrate through parades and video ceremonies. Be defined by the investment your communities have made in you by planting yard signs, posters, and streamers to cheer you on. Choose to define who you are by what you want this world to be.

How you define yourself is crucial because the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. I believe your generation is meant for greatness and look forward to seeing what the future holds in store.

As your representative, I am here to support and help you on your path. I still want to hear from you regarding concerns or support on different issues. I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 or here at home. You can also contact me via e-mail at Daniel.Elliott@lrc.ky.gov.