I rise to salute the Graduating Class of 2023. I mean by that both the high school and college graduates who have come through the last four years and arrive now at the point of celebrating their accomplishments and looking forward to their future.
In saluting you, I also deem you the “Toughest Class Ever” to arrive at your commencement ceremony. I know other graduates of former times have had to endure World Wars and traumatic cultural experiences, but none have had to do what you have done. And we all know what I’m about to say.
Over the past four years, you have successfully met your graduation requirements, and at the same time have navigated the most devastating world-wide pandemic ever recorded in human history.
As I think back to your first of the past four years, you sailed beyond the half-way mark of the school year with the routine ups and downs of a typical year in high school or college. You completed the first semester. You had Christmas break. You made plans for your spring break, your spring semester festivities, and probably were looking ahead as to how you’d spend that coming summer.
Then came March, 2020. You heard the first alarms of a dangerous virus that might affect the whole world. You then got the devastating news that our entire country would shut down for three weeks to give the virus the chance to come and go.
Then you began to hear about the extended lock-down of all human contact. What? As young people, that had to negatively “rock your world” beyond anything you could have ever imagined. You college students had to go home.
Then you began to learn about virtual classes, virtual assignments, virtual life. And everything in your life was cancelled. Let’s be honest, that was terrible.
However, and let’s give credit and kudos to your school administrators and teachers, you learned to live in that crazy “new normal,” and you completed that semester and those credits under terribly adverse conditions. Virtual everything. Isolation. Loneliness.
Thus you began your climb to the title of “Toughest Class Ever.”
The next three years have seen you go back-and-forth between “in person” and “virtual.” You lost many of your social events and extra-curricular activities. You have ridden the roller coaster of hoping life will go back to normal to experiencing the crazy life of a global pandemic.
I admit that my list here of your experiences over the past four years is only the proverbial tip of the ice berg. You could go on and on with your own examples, stories, and terrible tales. Please reflect on all this with your family and friends as you gather and celebrate.
Yes, the times were tough. But you were tougher. In fact, given the reality and history of these four years, you were the “Toughest Class Ever.” Hands down.
As a pastor and believer in God’s almighty presence in our every-day lives, I believe God certainly strengthened and guided you throughout these years. I believe He empowered you to stick with it. I believe He encouraged you to persevere. I believe He created you with all of your gifts and skills and potential for learning.
I hope you believe in God and believe He has given you all of these blessings in your life. I hope you are finding God’s greatness and goodness in your life by encountering Him in His Word, the Bible. Amen.
So, you college graduates of the Class of 2023, who have probably already “walked,” you are the “Toughest Class Ever.”
You high school graduates of the Class of 2023, who will probably hear your name and walk to the podium this Friday night, you are the “Toughest Class Ever.”
Go now. Take your toughness to the next level. Serve God and serve your fellow humankind. I always tell my children and grandchildren, “Do good things!” So you, too, “Do good things!”
You’re the “Toughest Ever!”
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He offers his preaching and teaching pastoral ministry to any group seeking or needing a Christ centered, Biblically based, and traditionally grounded sermon or teaching. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]