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2020 graduates will help rebuild our nation and world from the COVID-19 pandemic

On the last day of May, our Marymount University in Arlington community joined virtually, united across the entire world, in what was surely the most unprecedented commencement in the school’s 70-year history.

And we are not alone in this – for the first time in higher education, commencements are being held in a virtual format around the globe due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

This wasn’t the plan when we started this spring semester. It feels not that long ago when, due to the coronavirus, we decided to move our almost 700 courses to an online delivery format. At that time, no one expected what would follow – a worldwide stay-at-home lockdown deemed necessary to prevent the spread of a contagion threatening health care systems everywhere.

COVID-19 has affected all of us. This event, still unfolding, may be one of the most impactful in the 21st  century, and it has changed so much already. It may result in new societal norms – are shaking hands a thing of the past? It has resulted in new medical innovations and global collaborations – the increasing death rate from this pandemic has proved to be a catalyst for the development of new testing and potential vaccines and cures for the virus. It has also brought about a renewed awareness of the meaning of global interconnectedness. This has been a time when the phrases “we are in this together” and “you will never walk alone” took on a new meaning, a time when we have shifted from deep individualism to recognizing the importance of the collective.

I know this crisis isn’t what our graduating seniors could’ve wanted for their sendoff. Many of our Saints have told me how hard it was for them to study at home with younger siblings, or they spoke of the difficulties they or their family members faced after getting furloughed or laid off from their jobs. Some of them had to care for sick family members while completing their studies. And worst of all, some of them may have lost a dear member of their family or a friend.

But these 2020 graduates didn’t skip a beat. Amid the difficulties they faced this semester, they persevered and made history. These students have become global citizens of an interconnected world. They have earned degrees that will help rebuild our nation and the world by boosting our strained health care system, keeping us safe both physically and virtually and aiding our economic recovery.

I have no doubt that we will soon conquer one of the greatest threats of our times. The college education our graduates have received prepares them to conquer the threats we face today and those we will face in the future.

We are in your hands – congratulations, and go forth to transform the world!

Becerra is the president of Marymount University in Arlington. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020