Sept. 20: sunlit skies on a beautifully warm afternoon. Only thing to disturb the Class of 2020 on this perfect day was the slight wind and our teary eyes as we took to the stage.
In the midst of the pandemic, some may have anticipated the rescheduled spring/summer commencement to feel a bit cringy. Some of our fellow graduates could not celebrate with us. Some of us didn't have all our desired loved ones to experience the day alongside us. Most of us feared for our health while participating in such a grand event.
And some of us were just downright upset. Before the beginning of the commencement, I listened intently to my fellow classmates as they openly expressed their sorrows for our fallen programs. I, too, was and am upset to know MWSU will no longer offer my field of study. So, with this sad undertone creeping in on our glorious day, I just wanted to get the commencement over with.
But then the Processional began, followed by Interim Vice Provost Dr. Elise Hepworth's impressive National Anthem performance (did I mention she sang in a mask? Seriously, people, what a set of lungs!). Then Alyssa Bonnet's voice came over the speakers for the commencement address. She offered us powerful words in this trying time, words I cannot hope to reiterate for you as they were too perfectly said. She reminded us that despite COVID-19 straining our sanities during our last semester as undergrads, we powered through. We are all incredible beings who can and will do amazing things. Nothing can keep us down, so nothing should keep us from enjoying our time in the spotlight. We deserve to be recognized, and we should feel proud of our accomplishments.
So, as I walked across that stage, my sorrow was replaced by optimism. Yes, my program is gone. The courses that shaped me into the graduate I am will no longer be offered to other students. And that's okay, because the experiences, the friendships, the daily inspiration within those classrooms - both virtual and physical - will always be offered.
To sum it all up for you, the spring/summer 2020 commencement was an eye-opener for most of us. The atmosphere started off sunny with a side of bitter, but it ended in nostalgia and confidence for our bright futures.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020. And to all future classes, just try to remember our home of black and gold, even when things in our fortress look bleak.