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To those high school seniors who are graduating this year — we’re sorry.

Delayed or canceled graduation ceremonies mean you are missing an important rite of passage. You are missing the opportunity to stand on a stage in front of your friends and family, take your diploma, and show that 12 years of schooling have paid off.

Graduations have become part of the fabric of our lives. We expect them. We look forward to their arrival and celebrate with those who mark the occasion. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and schools shuttering for the semester, that fabric suddenly and definitively ripped.

And you didn’t just miss graduation.

You missed the last two months of your senior year, the time when fellow students and teachers mark your accomplishment. There are only a few times in our lives when we are able truly to reflect and celebrate — marriage, key anniversaries, retirement. In all of these, the actual date is only part of the equation. The preparations and conversations beforehand are where the importance sinks in.

You have missed the conversations in the hallways of the high school.

You have missed the jokes and comments from teachers as you wrap up the year.

You have missed the social events, the usual cap-and-gown fitting, the graduation rehearsals.

No, not all of these events are delightful in and of themselves. To our memories, some of them were downright dull. But they help you comprehend what is happening, the big shift that is coming up, and set your thoughts toward the future.

Thank you, seniors, for all you have done. Thank you for all that you will do.

Know that your work, your accomplishments and your achievements still stand. You have made all of us proud, regardless of whether we are in a crowd or cheering you on across the state.

You may or may not have a graduation ceremony. But know that your memories of your last year of high school will be unique. You may not experience an assortment of traditions now. But in years to come, you will be able to tell about the spring of 2020 to your friends and family.

Above all else, we need you.

The pandemic has shown how important it is to have strong and effective scientific and political leadership.

It has shown the importance of critical thinking and the ability to learn on our feet.

It has shown, in other words, that we need a renewal of civil society, ready to build a more inviting, just, and caring world.

You will help get us there.