Word Count: 705
Read Time: 2 minutes 50 seconds
By: Ryan Manion, President of Travis Manion Foundation, Gold Star Sister of 1stLt Travis Manion, USMC
History has shown us that in times of turmoil, there will always be shining beacons of hope to remind us how to move forward. Each generation faces its own adversity and the path they take to overcome helps shape their character, often not recognized until years later. To think about the state of our world right now, it's impossible to deny that we are living through a period that will be discussed for decades to come.
We’re seeing Americans standing up to racial injustice and calling for systemic change, unbelievable acts of courage and dedication from frontline workers against an invisible enemy, and substantial sacrifice and support from millions of Americans in countless ways.
Another shining example of what should be remembered from this period in time is the generation that comprises the class of 2020. Whether high school, college, grad school, or any other educational endeavor, to put in the time and effort to accomplish a goal is certainly deserving of celebration when that goal is reached. Those who crossed that finish line during such a tumultuous time could have felt a sense of disappointment as most graduation ceremonies were postponed, held virtually, or canceled altogether.
But what I’m seeing from this generation is something truly unique and admirable. Rather than feeling somber or complaining that they’ve been deprived of a rite of passage, I’m seeing countless students embracing the unexpected and making the most of their time, taking pride in achieving this goal without needing all the pomp and circumstance to recognize their achievement.
One graduating high school senior I am especially impressed by is Michael Ponenti from New Jersey. While Michael has missed milestone events like prom and graduation because of the COVID-19 outbreak, instead of sulking he decided to utilize his time in a meaningful way. Last month Michael organized a supply donation drive in his hometown, which allowed him to collect over 300 masks that he then donated to a nearby Catholic War Veterans Association. The veterans he served had an average age of 70, making them especially vulnerable to the virus, so his gesture was deeply appreciated.
Michael is just one example from this generation, born around the attacks of September 11, 2001, at a time when our nation was in utter turmoil. Nearly 3,000 American lives had been lost and our emotions ran the gamut from vulnerable and scared to angry and mournful. Those are feelings that I’m sure many of us have experienced again during this year.
Back then, these children were a sign of hope for the future. They exemplified our resiliency and reminded us all that the strength of our national character could not be held down. They are now reaching a milestone in their lives, just as our country is again at a point of disarray. And just like they did 18 years ago, these young men and women show us all what it means to be resilient in the face of uncertainty.
The term 20/20 vision refers to the ability to clearly see what is in front of you. I think for most of us this time of sequential, polarizing events has left us unsure of what will come next. While these students also feel like they can’t see what is on the horizon, they still move forward, hopeful for what their futures hold.
Because of that, I see this generation as a shining example that we can all be inspired by. They are resilient, determined, and thus far have not allowed anything to prevent them from reaching their goals or relishing in the small victories this life has afforded them – not even a global pandemic.
The class of 2020 is this nation’s next generation of leaders and seeing the character they’ve exemplified, I am confident that we are in good hands. No one knows what the future will bring, but it’s evident from the actions we’ve seen displayed by this group that together we most definitely will get through this, and we’ll come out even stronger and more unified than we ever imagined. So here’s to the class of 2020, for helping us all see things more clearly.