Dear RIT Class of 2020,

This sucks.

There are so many things that have been difficult for everyone right now — transitioning to online learning, being separated from family and friends, being afraid of the virus and watching those close to us become sick, some losing jobs, others putting their lives at risk by working, the incredible psychological toll of living with so much uncertainty. 

We have heard from some of you that you feel you should be grateful/not “make a big deal” about this because, for the most part, you are healthy and safe. While gratitude is important, we want you to know: this IS a big deal. We feel your grief, you have lost very valuable things too, and it matters. 

We wish we could say goodbye to you in person. We wish we could applaud you as you walk across the stage. It is hard to find the words powerful enough to convey this. So, as in other times when our own words fail, we are turning to the words of others. Here are a few of our favorite parts from past commencement speeches we wanted to share with you. We would like to imagine we are listening to these speakers with you:

  1. "The difference between triumph and defeat, you'll find, isn't about willingness to take risks — it's about mastery of rescue." — Atul Gawande's 2012 speech at Williams College
  2. "Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. I promise you do.” –Sheryl Sandberg’s 2016 speech at UC Berkley
  3. "Ditch the dream and be a doer, not a dreamer … You don't have to know. You just have to keep moving forward. You just have to keep doing something, seizing the next opportunity, staying open to trying something new. It doesn't have to fit your vision of the perfect job or the perfect life. Perfect is boring and dreams are not real." –Shonda Rhimes 2014 speech at Dartmouth College
  4. "You are your own stories…The theme you choose may change or simply elude you. But being your own story means you can always choose the tone. It also means that you can invent the language to say who you are and what you mean…I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art." –Toni Morrison’s 2004 Speech at Wellesley College
  5. "Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along." — Stephen Colbert's 2011 speech at Northwestern University

The TLDR version: We are so sorry this happened. It’s okay not to know. And we believe you are resilient, and will make meaning of this time. You are the authors of your own story, and we cannot wait to read the stories you write.

With lots of respect, admiration, and congratulations,