I grew up in a small town in Jamaica with limited resources; education was my only way to a better life.
As I climbed the educational ladder, often struggling to purchase books and other resources, thoughts of graduation day kept me energized.
Graduation day was the day that my classmates and I could exhale because we knew that we were standing at the doorsteps of a promising future. Because of my experiences, the pain experienced by this year’s graduates has been close to my heart and motivated me to write a few words of inspiration for the class of 2020.
Class of 2020, one of your biggest dreams has been realized. You have made your parents, aunts, uncles, teachers, and all of us proud! Most importantly, you had a dream, you worked hard to achieve it, and you succeeded. The class of 2020 is incredibly special; special because you are graduating in the midst of a global pandemic, as well as a national and international fight for basic human rights for people of color.
Most of you expected to feel pure joy at graduation, but it has been a mixed bag—a mix of joy, gratitude, excitement, and fear of a now uncertain future. Most traditional ceremonies have been cancelled, jobs that were promised have been rescinded, and the future doesn’t seem as bright as you expected. The future is bright but there are clouds blocking your view. Think about how many cloudy days and stormy nights you have survived to get to graduation; you are prepared, the challenges of 2020 will not defeat you.
In the meantime, be mindful of this moment in your life. You have earned the right to be joyful! Use any fear that you feel as fuel for your dreams that are still waiting to be realized. You may not be able to see it but your hard work and dedication has started you down a path of excellence. I pray that your journey will offer more rewards than challenges, and that those that are placed in your path will embrace you with arms extended, ready to give you the love and support that you need.
Godspeed as you embark on a journey of self-discovery. When you walk down a dark path, always remember that there is a light within you. Always remember that greatness is within you. There is much to overcome, but you are ready for the challenge.
Starting today, walk confidently into your purpose. Your teachers, your parents, your ancestors, your mentors have guided you and left powerful footprints in the sand just for you. Rise up with a sense of purpose, and as you embark on this incredible journey, remember to be kind, walk with a spirit of gratitude, and treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their race or socioeconomic background. Find a charitable endeavor that you are passionate about so that you can leave your own unique footprints in the sand.
Finally, roar to your own beat—don’t try to be like anyone else because you are uniquely made. Be authentically you and your light of greatness will always shine.
Congratulations! We love you. We believe in you. Now, more than ever, the world needs you—your youthful energy, your optimism, your activism, and your ability to make this world a better place for us all.
From humble beginnings in Jamaica, I was blessed to graduate from both college and law school. I graduated with students who were the first in their families to get a degree, whose relatives flew in from around the world to share in the celebration, and whose families still lived in poverty and were counting on their graduation day to be a beacon of hope for the entire family.
What I know for sure is that humble beginnings build character, and setbacks instill a fighting spirit. I also know that graduation day is fantastic, but it is just the start of the journey. As my parents and grandparents encouraged and rooted for me, I am rooting for every graduate of 2020.
I can see that your light of greatness is still shining.