My oldest daughter graduated high school last night, and that got me thinking about hopes and dreams, milestones and change.
When I first knew that I was pregnant, I hoped for a healthy baby, the wisdom to raise her right, and a warm and safe and caring world in which she could grow up, full of friends and family, wonder and love.
She was born just one month after 9/11, when it felt as though there was a shadow over the world. Her generation knows a lot of shadows, and as I write this, it’s clear that she is growing up in a society that still doesn’t value all its members.
The thing about growing up is that it never stops until you are dead. Learning and growing and changing doesn’t stop with high school or even college. That’s when it really begins.
Last night at the graduation ceremony, the student leaders gave wonderful speeches that demonstrated they understood that simple fact. The valedictorian spoke about growing up after 9/11, about the pandemic, about riots taking place just a few miles from the stadium in which we sat.
Everything is a risk, he said, and that high school senior was right.
Change is often the biggest risk of all, both changing yourself and changing the world. But nothing will change without taking that risk. Without looking that potential failure in the eye and saying, “I can not only survive this, but it will make me stronger.”
So to my darling C, my funny, smart, strong-willed eldest child, here is my graduation wish to you, and to so many of her generation:
That you go out into the world willing to take risks, knowing that your dad and I will be there to pick you up if you fall, and that even if we are not, you have the strength inside you to rise yourself.
That when you look at the world and see injustice, you use that strong voice of yours to speak up.
That you move forward in your life with the knowledge that even small changes can make a difference.
That hope is one of the strongest forces in the world.
That love is even stronger.
And that you embody both of those.
There is strength and power inside you. And with it, you can help to shine a light strong enough to eliminate that shadow over the world for good.