To the Class of 2020: Times are hard. We need you to lead us now | Mary Gay Scanlon

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By Mary Gay Scanlon

Celebrating your graduation in the midst of a pandemic is not what you expected – or deserve – and I get that. Whether in a packed auditorium, on a stage, or in a stadium, our tradition is to pause for a moment to mark this milestone with your friends and family.  For a moment in time, all eyes are on you as we celebrate your past accomplishments and anticipate your next adventures.

The ceremony may look different this year, Class of 2020, but our eyes are still on you. We are looking to you to lead us.

We need you to lead us.

What we are experiencing now is a crisis unlike anything our country has ever experienced — one that we’ll likely be dealing with for months and years to come. This virus has shaken us to our core, exposed the gross inequities that exist in healthcare, education, housing, and economic opportunity, and left all of us feeling a deep uncertainty.

But, I have never been more certain of the faith and the hope that I have for your generation.

Our pathway to creating a better, more equitable, and just world begins with you. Your power is your energy, your optimism, your audacity to challenge that status quo — and to demand better. And we need you now more than ever.

Your mobilization and registration of young people around gun violence issues led to new gun safety legislation for the first time in decades. Your activism, passion, and sense of justice have brought more energy and urgency to our national conversation than we have seen in a generation.

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But there is so much more to do. From acting on climate change to making college more affordable, and restoring the balance of power of our government, I am calling on every single one of you to choose to matter, to do your part, whether by volunteering, by voting in every election, by organizing or running for office, by developing the next critical vaccine or technological innovation, or producing the next literary or musical masterpiece.

These are the moments that shape leaders, the moments when people show their mettle, and the moments when the torch is passed. I challenge you to keep faith in our democracy and lead us to the future. Our democracy may be imperfect – but it is worth fighting for, and that is by far our greatest responsibility; a responsibility that many take for granted.

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How you begin the next chapter of your life might be different than you planned, but my challenge to all of you is this: continue to have the courage to stand up for what is right and for what you believe in, to serve your community – even when it’s hard or not what you expected.

We are ready for you to lead us. We are looking forward to it.

U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, a Democrat, represents the Delaware County-based 5th Congressional District. She writes from Washington D.C.