WASHS Class of 2020: Here’s Your Origin Story
Every superhero has an origin story - those fleshed-out flashbacks that give rise to superpowers. Origin stories contextualize superhuman powers as pivot points of very human stories. They inform our heroes’ behaviors and motivations, and define the struggles that follow them through their lives. Superpowers are invariably reflections of psyche, a physical manifestation of the soul’s struggle.
Class of 2020, your whole lives have been an origin story.
You were born to history. With clouds of toxic debris still settling on metropolises-turned-combat zones, you were still swaddled as newborns when we burdened you with the desperate, wounded, weighted hope of a nation. From this burden, your shoulders grew strong.
You are ingrained to navigate technologies that seemed alien a generation ago. You’ve created a new way of collaborating, formed friendships far beyond the narrow bounds of your neighborhoods, and coordinated complex battle plans from your bedrooms using only your thumbs and a cheap pair of miked headsets. You devised cryptic languages: YOLO, SMH, ROFL. From this, you have pioneered technology-enhanced social engagement.
While generations of parents before you struggled with their children’s addictions, you struggled with your parents’ addictions, a far more cruel fate. You were unfairly forced to act as adults, without being equipped or resourced as adults. Often, as we failed you, you turned to each other. Here you stand, against impossible odds, on the verge of an accomplishment made more monumental for its near-impossibility. From this, you found independence, a generational self-reliance, and a somber, compassionate responsibility to each other.
Having vaulted this gauntlet laid before you, your grasp slowly caressing that golden chalice, masked villainy snatched it away. You were robbed of beloved American rites of passage: taffeta and lace, suntanned selfies, penned messages across shiny yearbooks, the fluttered embrace of a slow dance, a cheered walk across a draped stage, a tassel flipped, even a handshake. Righteous is your anger, your grief, your sorrow. Even that is drowned in the mechanical wheezing of a thousand respirators.
Growth, my dear heroes, is always painful. From this, we will grow. From this, we will question on what values those rites of passage were based. From this, you will lead toward new values and new rites of passages to reflect them.
We know you will lead. Why?
Because your whole life has been your origin story.
You have exactly what we suddenly, direly need. We need solid shoulders, tested tender by the weight of hope and sorrow. We need leaders who have learned independence and self-sufficiency tragically young, because we have no time to teach now. We need somber, compassionate responsibility to each other. We need humanizing connective technology. We need to Minecraft new ways of engineering towns and spaces to accommodate a species-altering pandemic. We need evolved rites of passage, ones that you set with new uplifted values.
Your birth to history was no coincidence. It is not a shame or a sorrow. It is not to be pitied. It is a triumph, your collective pivot point.
And, should you stand together and walk the stage with only each other to bear witness, without parents or teachers or siblings, it will not be because politicians waved a color-coded banner or a school board decreed it so. They are mere pawns of destiny.
It will be so because fate, in Her wisdom, has deemed it so.
If you stand without us, you stand without the shrouds of our ways of thinking, without our failures. You stand shedding the world that is to create the world that is to be. Should we have the right to ask, we ask that you stand strong together, that you give each other a standing ovation. Every one of you.
In that moment, put away childish squabbles, disintegrate social divides, and understand that every person positioned six feet apart on that artificial turf field is your legion. Each was equally chosen to stand in the inner sanctum. This is your X-Mansion, your Stark Tower. Stand strong together. You know which of you possesses the superpower to design, lead, cure, nurture, build, fight, nourish, engineer, research, teach. We need every one of you. You need every one of you.
Henceforth, we will be hidden in the background, offering occasional sage words of wisdom for you to ignore, keeping your capes crisply ironed, sewing your wounds, protecting your identity. We are the keepers of the grim and beautiful details of your origin story. We will watch from caves and towers, as you dare forward, strong and magnificent, to live a life no one else has lived, to create a world no generation has known.
Raise your sights, Class of 2020. Clear and focused in the night’s sky is that icon of light beckoning you toward the destiny of heroes.