There is a new reality, one that the graduates of 2020 will step out into. It’s not like anything that has come before, a world of shifting paradigms and social upheaval. The crises swirling all around our young people will require adaptation like nothing before, in areas from learning to working to socializing.
Our young fencers have found themselves in a world that changed dramatically just as they were starting to celebrate their long journey through school and into adulthood. The carpet has been pulled out from under them. It gives new meaning to the phrase “think on your feet”, because these graduates don’t know what college will look like in the fall, or what condition the world will be in when and if they step foot on campus.
There is the strangeness of the new normal that coronavirus has brought to our world. Fear and insecurity. There is a generational change that we can see happening right now, in the streets all over America. This generation of graduates is the first since the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968 to feel the full weight of racial injustice.
It’s a lot. These young people are extraordinary though. They have inherited a troubled world, there is no doubt of that. They are capable of meeting it with grace and strength. There is no doubt of that either.
Adaptation is a learned skill
How do we learn to adapt to new things? Adaptation is a skill that is best developed over the course of many years, and fencers do a good job of developing that skill in their training and through competition. We have seen our fencers learn and grow in their training. This skill of adaptability is the simple most important skill for them to have right now in this world that is changing so drastically for them.
We’ve had the privilege to talk with all of our graduates and their families, to hear about how their experience at AFM has changed them. The change has come through making new friendships, developing mentor relationships with coaches, and learning how to think quickly and solve problems. Fencing has helped our graduates to be more self assured and confident. This sport teaches how to set goals and pursue them, even in difficult times.
I feel that through the values of equality, inclusion, respect, and camaraderie that they have learned in part through fencing, they are ready to lead us into the next chapter. Make no mistake – it is these young people who will be the leaders of the future. They are the ones who will show us the way, not the reverse. It is humbling to see this transformation that our graduates have experienced.
The positive impact that this class will have on their communities, it is something special. This graduating class has a special place with us because they have helped us create fencing in a new and different way. We’ve had to mold and innovate more than ever before. We are inspired as we watch them look with determination at the future. The same way that we’ve seen our graduates look at their fencing competitions with determination, so now are we seeing them look at the world with that same determination. It’s a remarkable thing to see!
History has its eyes on you
It’s a bit of a cliche from the musical Hamilton, but history does have its eyes on you graduates. You will always be associated with these intense and turbulent times. They do not define you though, you will define them.
The times continue to surprise us. Everyone knows that 2020 is going to be a year for the history books. There are rare moments in history where things just all seem to come together, and this year is one of those moments. The way that people talk about World War II or the Summer of 1969, that’s how we’re going to talk about this year. It is world changing, and it seems to only be getting started.
They world is moving forward for these young fencers. Their strength and resilience will carry them through this turbulent time, and we know that they will be able to make it to the other side with success.
Our graduates may not know what the next year of their lives will look like, with uncertainties about civil unrest and the global pandemic changing the way that their world is turning. We hope that they know that they are loved and supported, no matter what may come their way in 2020. We hope that they know that we believe in them. We hope that they know how extraordinary they are.
This is still a year to celebrate these young fencers! To the class of 2020, know that we are so very proud of you. You may not see your place yet in this historic year, but you are a part of it. You are both the present and the future, and for that we honor you and we thank you.
The ability to work for our dreams in fencing and beyond in a precious thing. While our graduates look toward a brighter future, they are also faced with some difficult realities. When we talk about the future that these young people will build, we can’t ignore the fact that they are inheriting a challenging world. We are here with you graduates.
You are taking us into the next decade, and we know that the world is in good hands.