Editorial: A letter to our seniors

The+class+of+2020+stands+in+front+of+the+Loyola+sign+outside+Marquette+Hall.+The+2020+graduating+class+had+their+senior+year+cut+short+and+honored+with+a+virtual+graduation+party+due+to+COVID-19.+Photo+credit%3A+Loyola+University+New+Orleans

Loyola University New Orleans

The class of 2020 stands in front of the Loyola sign outside Marquette Hall. The 2020 Commencement has been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Schwalm

It’s been almost two months since campus shut down for the semester, although it feels like a lot longer. While all of us were sad to have to leave, nobody felt it more acutely than you, our seniors.

The rest of us can’t imagine what it must be like to have our college experience cut short like that right at the very end. That’s why we want to take this opportunity to recognize all that you’ve done.

The typical graduation messages don’t work this year.

We can’t all get together to celebrate your accomplishments. We don’t know what the future holds. We’d remind you to always wear sunscreen, but even that seems pointless since we’re all going to be stuck inside for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t make your accomplishments any less impressive, and it doesn’t make us any less certain that you will go on to do great things.

So here you are. You made it. You graduated. You won’t be able to have the graduation parties that you were looking forward to as seniors, and you won’t even have an in-person commencement ceremony—at least not yet—but that doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished any less.

You’ve rolled with every punch that college has thrown at you. Every grueling class, every all-nighter and even every party has led up to this. You’ve finished this journey, so take some time to congratulate yourself and appreciate this accomplishment before you move on to the next one.

Nothing about your experience at Loyola has been predictable. From elevators breaking down and dorms flooding, to the administration repeatedly changing and the perennial possibility of a hurricane threatening to derail your lives, this school has always had something new to throw at you.

In some way, then, maybe it makes sense that this last semester would be as crazy and unpredictable as they come. Each new challenge that you’ve faced along the way has made you stronger, smarter, better prepared for the next one.

New Orleans is a city full of history that we can learn from, and one event in particular stands out right now as a moment that can teach us about current events.

Many have been comparing the impact the pandemic is having on the city to that of Hurricane Katrina. Both disasters have had wide-ranging impacts, disrupting life in New Orleans in ways both big and small. Living in New Orleans teaches us so much about how a community can heal after a disaster. Now, as many of you leave this city and spread out across the world, you will take that knowledge with you at a time when everyone will need it.

These days, it often feels like the world is ending. But now more than ever, the world needs the skills you developed at Loyola.

The class of 2020 is made up of amazing artists, scientists, journalists and so much more. Every one of you seniors has something to contribute.

Remember the Jesuit ideals instilled in you here. They will act as guidelines to help you through so many of life’s challenges. Your Pursuit of Excellence and your Critical Thinking and Effective Communication have gotten you through the academic rigor of the past four years, and getting your degree is as good an example of Development of Personal Potential as any we can think of.

Now, your Appreciation Of Things Both Great And Small and Contemplative Vision Formed By Hope will help provide you with the patience and peace of mind that we all need to get through this pandemic.

Finally, your Commitment To Service, Special Concern For The Poor And Oppressed, and International And Global Perspective will help us all to rebuild on the other side of this crisis, as we look to heal our communities and undo as much as we can the damage that it has caused to the most vulnerable among us.

If there’s one thing that Loyola teaches everybody, it’s resilience.

In fact, this city that we all care so much about—the city that has been so formative for your college experiences—is itself a testament to sticking with what you care about through thick and thin. New Orleans is no stranger to hardship or crisis, but it’s also a city that has always faced its challenges head-on and come out stronger for it. Just like then, New Orleans will make it through this. Loyola will make it through this. And, most importantly, so will you.

We know it must be hard to be graduating right now—to be starting the next chapter of your lives at a time when the whole world is in chaos. Just know, also, that we’re all following your example.

We’ve seen you finish your journey through college. We’ve seen you working hard in the face of adversity and never settling for just being good. You probably feel unsure and inexperienced as you step out into the greater world, so we just want you to know that to us, you are all leaders.

You embody Loyola’s principles of being open-minded, kind, honest and charitable—all things we need more than ever right now. And we believe in you.