Here’s some of what you had to say:
As you graduate, the generation before you passes you a baton that is dirty and battered, that points to an unclear path for the future. But we ask of you this: Clear away the dirt from the baton, make it your own and forge a new path, knowing that you and your peers will, ultimately, generate solutions, and that we will love and support you along the way.
— Lucy Bartnick, Wayne, N.J.
Have convictions, and be passionate in them. But also be compassionate toward those who disagree. Concessions are inevitable; do your best to make them equitable. And don’t put your identity in your political affiliation — there are other places in which to find community and value.
— Brian Hawkins, Columbus, Ohio
Seek to engage in meaningful political discussions even when they feel daunting or potentially uncomfortable. Talk to your relative who has different opinions from you, talk to the friend who “isn’t into politics,” talk to someone running for local office who you don’t know yet. Foster empathy and kindness. Be open to changing someone’s mind but don’t let that be your agenda; be open to having your mind changed too. It will be these talks that keep the fabric of our democracy intact.
— Norah Hogan, Brooklyn
Vote! If you don’t use your voice, it won’t be heard. Whatever you believe, you need to vote for it. You’ve been given a chance every two years to make a difference at the national and state level, as well as locally. Don’t miss this opportunity (there are lots of people who hope you do).
— A. LaBan, Chicago
Don’t let the intimidation of people with more experience stop you from finding your voice. Experience is incredibly useful, but so are new perspectives. Sometimes there are people who have been in their position for so long that they aren’t as in touch with how the younger generation is thinking or what we believe in. Don’t belittle their experience or think that it’s unimportant — but at the same time, never let anyone convince you that your viewpoints don’t matter too.
— Rowan Bienes, master of science in forensic psychology, Arizona State University
The world we are about to enter into is fractured. Old divisions, old prejudices, old tensions flare alongside this pandemic. But we know that these fractures are neither the world’s destiny nor its potential. Each of us will find a way to make something beautiful out of the different worlds we enter as we leave this shared one. I know I am so looking forward to seeing you all in person someday soon and hearing about them.
— Mrinalini Sisodia Wadhwa, valedictorian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi
(Submissions were edited and condensed. Thanks to Isabella Grullón Paz for compiling them.)