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Sara McKeown White


When I was young Mary Schmich wrote a hypothetical commencement speech for the Chicago Tribune that Baz Lurhmann later turned into a hit song. It’s pretty catchy and full of advice more sound than I could ever offer here. Google it.

One of the lines that has stuck with me twenty odd years later is: The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind. The kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Y’all certainly got blindsided didn’t you? Who would have thought that your senior year would be completely derailed by a world-wide pandemic?

While I’m not a huge fan of hurrying people along in turning lemons into lemonade, because sometimes things just stink and there’s little we can do about it besides just sit with how terrible it is. I have been mighty impressed by the resilience, adaptability, and strength you’ve shown in the face of such a great amount of lemons.

What you had to give up during the last phase of your senior year is a travesty. You missed all the best parts: prom; final plays, concerts, sporting events, and lunches out with friends; those last few golden days when you’re done with all your schoolwork and no one else is; and most of all a real graduation full of friends and loved ones you can actually hug and touch.

Although, I shouldn’t be surprised by the grace with which you’ve handled all this loss, as most of you were born just a year after 9/11 and came of age in a time of increased fear, instability, and mass shootings. Hoping for the best and preparing for the worst seems to be your natural state.

The assets you’ve developed and shown during this time, like Commitment to Learning (during a pandemic), Positive Values (in the face of great turmoil), and Positive Identity (while coping with a ton of stress), will serve you well as you navigate your future. Which is often more uncertain than most adults will lead you to believe.

This time is one that you’ll no doubt often think back on, talk about, and use to connect with and advise others. Just as we all do when mass crises occur.

I hope when you look back on your Senior year you’ll see some of the lemonade and not just all the lemons. The community that rallied around you, the ability of the school to pivot everything they were doing to help support you in a totally new and foreign way, the family members and friends who see you as strong, capable, resilient young people ready to face whatever uncertainty is sure to come on another idle Tuesday.

You’re a heck of a class 2020. Don’t ever forget that.


Your Friend and Supporter

Sara McKeown White

Teton Valley Youth Alliance