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It’s a beautiful day in May. The sun is streaming down; the birds are on their migration paths north; the first daylilies are just breaking into bloom — and students are gathering for their graduation ceremonies on an afternoon when everything seems just right in a world where so much seems so wrong. These are the students who began their college lives within weeks, possibly days, even hours of that moment when, on September 11, 2001, the first hijacked plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center. Certainly they — above all classes of recent times — have the right to peer into a murky future and wonder, with a certain trepidation, what’s in store for them. Through no fault of their own, they have earned the right to discouragement, even perhaps despair.
And yet, as our commencement speaker steps to the podium, that sun is shining brightly enough to imagine the world begun anew — and don’t we all, these students at the end of their college careers and the rest of us, don’t we all have the right to graduate, all those of us who, whatever our ages, come from the class of 9/11?
So all of you, settle into your chairs, take off your hats, feel the comforting heat of that sun beating down, and consider the words of Howard Zinn as he urges the students of Spelman College not to be discouraged, not to despair, but to enter the world with their heads held high, imagining what each of them might do for him or herself — and for the rest of us.