Congratulations Class of 2020. You made history. Probably not in the form you had hoped, but make no mistake, your class will never be forgotten. Your social sacrifices will forever be a measuring stick for future conversations. Simply put, you have changed the world.
I’m certain that this was not your intent at the start of the school year. Your senior year is supposed to be exceptionally special. The classes, the competitions, the graduation, and the time with friends before everything is shook up and paths separate. It’s just the nature of growing up, and that time was taken from you by a situation completely out of your control. Things were shook up a lot sooner than expected.
There’s a silver lining here. You have received a crash course in crisis, in emergency management in preparation that very few students have experienced. You now know the value of preparing for the unexpected, the value in each moment and the importance of not taking anything for granted.
While this may seem like a slight at the present moment, years from now you will look back and realize this rough stretch taught you more than you could ever have learned in class, or through “distance learning.” That realization, however, will take some time, but eventually it will shape your world view.
You share some characteristics with several others that came before you. “The Greatest Generation,” as they came to be known, missed out on a lot of senior year traditions as well, because many enlisted in the armed forces early to fight a war against fascism and to defend our shores from further attack by an empirical enemy. While there are significant differences between those and the sacrifices of your generation, just know you are in great company. Your generation too will be remembered for sacrifices made to defeat an invisible enemy.
The Tehachapi Unified School District was kind enough to print a banner with the entire 2020 graduating class, listing them for public recognition, and dropped one off at City Hall. We attached it prominently to the building so passersby can view each name on that list. Each name has a story, a struggle and eventually a triumph as we recover from the impact of COVID-19. Whether you realize it or not, the Class of 2020 is writing an amazing story for the history books, and you are all a part of that process.
Much of your early childhood came with the wounds of Sept. 11, 2001 and the terrorist attacks fresh in our minds as we all adjusted to a new way of life. Your early adulthood will now include similar adjustments to life after this pandemic.
There will be changes, but hopefully some of them will be positive. Maybe you learned to appreciate your grandparents more because you were unable to hug them during this time. Maybe you have reconnected with your world by enjoying much of the quiet this brought upon you, and maybe you even learned to like school a little more. I’m sure your underclassmen will be very excited to get back to class next school year. Take the positives and continue them in your daily routine.
I know I speak on behalf of the entire staff and the Tehachapi City Council when I say we are proud of you. We know these last few years haven’t been easy, there have been personal tragedies and now public emergencies that have made life far more challenging than expected.
But, as I mentioned earlier, this is a lesson, this is a challenge that you have met head on and you are still here today. You will have more obstacles as you continue your education or start a career. Just know that you are a resilient group that can handle anything put in front of you; you have proven that to us all.
You are the class of 2020, and you have already changed the world once. I’m looking forward to witnessing how you will do it again in the years to come.
Greg Garrett is Tehachapi's city manager.