I keep hoping someone will ask me to give a graduation speech, and of course it will never happen, but if they did this year, this is what I would say:
OK kids, the good news is that you are graduating, and the bad news is that you are now the adults in the room. I know it’s a little early. After all, you haven’t even gotten your cap and gown yet. You haven’t signed those teary goodbyes and promises to keep in touch.
And you still have yet to graduate. You have plans. Most of you have big plans. You have new people to meet, new places to go and experiences you have never even imagined. And the mess we adults have caused in the world is now on you.
It’s on you because we have clearly and almost without regret, messed it up — really messed it up. I am not going to depress you by listing all the things we adults have screwed up, but just know that you have a ton to do.
What is said about you by the same adults that have misread, misunderstood and completely and utterly mismanaged the world, is that you are careful, secretive and want to be safe. They also say that you are more like the generation who grew up in the ’50s than any other.
Remember the people who are pontificating about you and even naming you are the very people who have gotten everything wrong so far. To this I am going to quote Emma Gonzalez, who famously said, “We call B.S.!”
You are now to be known as Generation Z, and there are 61 million of you guys. That’s you, and you Z guys are going to save the world with your wisdom and guts.
Kids have actually been saving us from ourselves for a long time.
In 1963, 1,000 kids left school and gathered at the Sixth Street Baptist Church to march down the street in Birmingham to protest racism. They were arrested, and the next day hundreds more joined them and they were beaten, blasted by fire hoses, clubbed by police and attacked by dogs. Their march was called the “Children’s Crusade,” and those children lead the way to Civil Rights.
And it was the unforgettable, brave, bold, brilliant kids from Parkland, Fla., who picked themselves up from the horrifying killings at their school and showed us what to do. They cried, swore and organized. They didn’t sleep. They didn’t whine. They held a rally two days after the killings. They went to Florida Legislature to lobby against guns.
They organized the March for Our Lives in our nation’s capital. About 700,000 people marched that day.
Class of 2019, these are your people. These kids are Generation Z, your generation. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your generation is afraid or careful. Your generation is brave and smart and strong! You are the best of us, the best we have ever been.
Retired teacher Sandy Asper lives in Newport Beach.