As this school year comes to a close and you prepare for your final exams and complete your projects and papers, please know that we are pulling for you. Tell someone if you need help. We want you to succeed; it’s why we are here.
Happily, it looks like we are nearing the end of this pandemic. Continue to take care of yourself and look out for each other. But, it appears that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’d like to say something to you about this past year.
I love to collect things. I have a collection of rocks, books, coins, and stamps. I have marbles that were hand-fashioned of clay and played with by children more than 150 years ago. I also have a collection of old campaign buttons. My favorite is a vote for Abraham Lincoln button used in the 1860 presidential election. It has a tiny tintype photo of Lincoln affixed to a small round brass frame with a pin on the back. I like to imagine Lincoln himself pinning it on some voter’s lapel during that tumultuous election that preceded the Civil War. This campaign button reminds me of a time in American history far more challenging than anything we have seen this year.
Another very difficult time in our history was World War II, which followed the Great Depression. I have collected several United States war ration stamp books, handed down by family members, who used the small stamps to purchase such things as sugar and gasoline. Supplies were so limited during the war that everything was rationed. Those were frightening days. And yet now, on SUU’s campus, we have students from all the major WWII combatant nations, both sides of that horrific conflict, learning and playing together! Think about that! This would have been beyond imagination to those who lived in 1941.
When I look at my Civil War Era political campaign buttons, Victorian marbles, and WWII ration stamps, I’m reminded that those who came before us had fun days—and difficult days. They developed resiliency, grit, and compassion by facing their hardships head-on and overcoming them. And we are their heirs. We carry their DNA.
I’m starting a new collection this year. It’s a collection of my COVID-19 face masks. I know it sounds funny. But, I think one day, my great-great grandchildren will look at my old face coverings and wonder what it was like to be me—to have lived through the great pandemic! I hope it will help them feel strength and courage to face their own challenges.
Congratulations to those of you who are graduating this spring! And congratulations to those of you who finished another year and plan to keep going until you complete your degree! This has been a challenging year, I know, what an understatement. It is a year for the history books. You experienced it. It might have slowed you down, filled you with anxieties, and been stressful. You might have lost a loved one, if so, we mourn with you. And yet all the while you kept moving forward.
I hope you save a pandemic mask or two for your grandchildren to see and hold. It will give them pause to imagine what it was like to be you. And to be awed by your strength in the face of this difficult time, in a similar way that we respect the generations who endured big and small challenges before us.
I wish you the very best with your finals. And I wish you a wonderful summer. You have many beautiful and restful days ahead once your exams are all wrapped up. Still, I hope you continue to have a few difficult days or months or years in your future. Because it is facing and overcoming adversity that fuels our growth of character. And more than anything else, I wish for you the beautiful life that only comes to those whose character continues to grow.
With my warmest regards,
Scott L. Wyatt