Good afternoon graduates. I know you are ending the school year in a very unusual fashion. No one could have imagined, when you began your first day of senior year, that you would finish high school under these conditions. I congratulate you on your resilience, your resourcefulness, and your perseverance.
This is a day that is full of achievement, and you should feel very proud. All too often, we underrate the accomplishment of completing high school. But it is an important milestone. You put in a lot of time, work, and effort to get to where you are now. Please do not lose sight of that. You have earned this celebration.
You are a member of a graduating class that is part of an unprecedented commencement, which is occurring during a nationwide lockdown in India. Your graduation photos with your family will be not of you celebrating in the school auditorium, but rather of you in your homes and nearby surroundings.
Normally, you would also be participating in our traditional Duck Pond Walk to commemorate your graduation with your Embassy family. This year, you will have to do that virtually.
Although tradition is important, so is the manner in which we deal with adversity and unforeseen challenges. This COVID-19 crisis may have altered your graduation traditions, but it may well strengthen you for the future. You have drawn on capabilities you may never have known you had to complete your last few months of school online – including your final exams –during a lockdown in a foreign country. You may not appreciate it now, but this experience has demonstrated your adaptability to change and your resiliency – two qualities that will serve you well throughout your life.
Because of this experience, you will have a unique bond with your graduating class. You will come to realize in the years ahead that high school friends are very special. I still stay in touch with many of my high school classmates. High school is a point in your life when you simply are who you are – there are no special pretensions or any of the trappings of adulthood. This sense of genuineness is one reason why I believe you will always look back on these days fondly.
There are, of course, some others who also deserve recognition today. And those are your parents. Parents, you have taken these young adults with you all over the world. You have dealt with frequent moves, significant life changes, and the many other challenges that come with a life abroad. You have certainly played a pivotal role in making your graduates the impressive people they are today – and you should feel very proud of that as well.
My final thought this afternoon is to suggest to today’s graduates that you savor this moment. Despite the inconvenience of the lockdown, your high school graduation is still a precious moment that will stay with you for years to come. So often, at events such as this, things are moving fast, and our memories become a blur. You have all gone through a lot together. You have had good times, and also shared a few struggles as well. Do not let this current struggle overshadow the good times and your many accomplishments. While you will likely see each other again, this may be one of the last times you are going to be together as classmates. Please take a deep breath, smile, and take the time to appreciate this moment and what you have accomplished.
Congratulations again on your graduation. Be proud, and good luck!