lake and beyond
Commencement Poem by Zachary Hughes ’20
Student Commencement Poem
Zachary Hughes ’20
May 15, 2021
Picture yourself at 90
The skin on your hands, once taut and elastic
Has gone loose and papery.
You take minutes just to get in and out of bed.
Your fingers curl with the ache of arthritis,
The hair falls fast from your head
From where you sit, at 90, look back on this day.
May, 15, 2021 – 67 short years away.
We may be the generation interrupted,
The spring breakers who never came back.
Babies born at the millennium,
Children raised in the era of terror,
Students graduated into a pandemic.
We could be the generation interrupted
Or choose to be the generation clarified.
Children raised in the era of terror who refuse to be afraid,
Students graduated into a time of constraints
Who refused to be dismayed,
Who refused to get downhearted,
Who went back to the drawing board when a virus dashed
All the plans they had charted.
We have a chance to live free of veneer,
To steer our lives as captains of our souls
And chase goals bigger than just power, fame, and gold.
We have 67 years –
What will we do with our wild and precious lives?
What will you do?
What will you pay attention to
In this attention economy
As ads, posts and next episodes
Fight to give you a technological lobotomy.
What will you choose,
Knowing that one day your life will end.
What triumphs will you tackle,
What wounds will you mend?
Studying abroad in South Africa,
A bishop asked me,
“What are the five most pressing issues facing the world right now?”
What would you have said?
What list of five demands the attention
Of the sixty seven years you have before you wind up…
Old and wrinkly and 90.
Look down at your hands.
Your skin is still elastic.
Think thoughts in your mind
With neurons still plastic.
We’ve had a strange year.
We’ve been interrupted, in
But let us be the generation
With nothing but our complacency corrupted.
Let us hop in the fountains,
And stop to smell the roses.
Let us dance at each other’s weddings with cake on our noses.
Let us hug our grandmothers and be so glad that we can.
When we encounter injustice, let us be the ones who take a stand,
Who take the stand to witness
In hospitals, classrooms, courtrooms, and places of business –
That we appreciate the preciousness of life
Because we were the class with a year to clarify –
We were the class pushed to an extra year of spring break
Then, we were the class to graduate brave enough to take chances
For jobs, causes, and romances,
A class looking down the tunnel who chose to see the light
The class to see 2020 as the year to get our vision … just right.