A Blessing for the Class of 2020 by Kenny Green ’20, JSU President (2019-2020)
On May 9, 2020, Duke’s Jewish community gathered for a virtual Havdallah service, the ritual end of Shabbat, in honor of the graduating class of 2020. Havdallah signifies a moment of transition from Shabbat to the rest of the week, a fitting theme of change for a senior class who underwent a strange transition from student to alum during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jewish Student Union President and Class of 2020 graduate Kenny Green shared the following blessing with his classmates:
I’m definitely not the first one to say that this graduation weekend is by no means the graduation that a lot of us were expecting. And honestly, the situation in the world right now is not something any of us could have ever imagined in our wildest dreams. But, nonetheless, the pain and discomfort that many of us feel without spending these last few days together is totally valid.
Having a graduation gives us a sense of resolution and a chance to feel proud of our own personal accomplishments and the amazing work of others. Graduation is kind of like having a nice view at the top of a mountain after completing a tiring yet beautiful hike. By the time you get to the top of that mountain and see the view, you are exhausted but get to sit back and feel proud for completing your hike.
To be honest, it sort of feels like we just missed our view at the top of our hike. We got to the top of the mountain and when we expected the trees to open up and have the chance to see the path we took to get us there, we couldn’t find the nice view that we were hoping for or the view that past graduates have told us about in the past.
There’s no doubt that having views in life is incredible, but I would argue that the hike is much more important than the view at the end. The hike is the majority of the journey and it’s where we push ourselves to achieve as much as we possibly can.
As crazy as the last few weeks have been, I’m happy to say that the Class of 2020 has been forced to and has also learned to appreciate the hike and not rely on having the anticipated view at the end of a hike. Graduation gives us this final view. The final goodbye we all would have liked to have. And yes, it certainly sucks not to have that. However, over the last few weeks we’ve learned invaluable things about how to appreciate the hike more as we’re traveling without relying on one specific instance to provide us that experience. We’ve learned how to tell our friends how much we value them on the trail, instead of holding these feelings until the hike is over. We’ve learned how to pat ourselves on the back without waiting for someone else to tell us to do it. We’ve learned that life is unpredictable and to savor every possible moment with our hiking mates.
My blessing for all of us is that we continue to embrace our hike. Tell our friends how much we appreciate them. Look back and remember experiences like JSU bar nights and Latkapaloozas. Look ahead and plan but remember that it’s impossible to know what the path looks like just beyond the bend. And as the views come, and they inevitably will, let’s really enjoy them because we know what it feels like to hike for a while without having them. But, nonetheless, in the meantime, here’s to the Class of 2020: still on this winding and tumultuous trail living our lives appreciating the views as they come but living for the thrill of the trail.
I can’t wait to spend many more joyous occasions with you all. Whether it be meetups in cities around the world or even back at Duke. My Jewish experience at Duke has changed my life and I thank you all so much for giving me that experience. To finish, please join me in Shechehiyanu to celebrate this moment together. While this moment may not be the final view, it’s one of many special moments that we get to share on this trail together.
As part of Jewish Life at Duke’s #30DaysofGiving campaign, all donations made to Jewish Life at Duke by June 30, 2020 will be matched dollar-for-dollar, with a total match opportunity of up to $50,000.
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