Class of 2020’s Pepper Prize recipient reflects on overcoming adversity and finding hope
To us, the 2020 Lafayette seniors, it feels like no one else could possibly understand what the loss of the last seven weeks of our college career feels like.
We missed out on so many “lasts.” We missed the opportunity to say a real goodbye to the friends we’ve made and the school we love. Sometimes it seems wrong to feel sad about losing time at school when so many other things in the world are going wrong. But it’s OK to feel sad and disappointed. I definitely do. I lost my summer internship, and my year abroad at University of Cambridge now seems so uncertain.
I can’t speak for all of the feelings, losses, or experiences of the Class of 2020. As the Pepper Prize winner, I have the unique opportunity to share and speak to the experiences of a senior class graduating during a pandemic. The truth is, it’s pretty depressing.
I would feel as though I wronged the Class of 2020 if I left our story here when there is another to be told. There are lessons to be learned and hope to be found. By changing how we all view the pandemic, we can change the way it impacts us.
Rather than view the pandemic as an ultimate annoyance, force of evil, or wrecker of our envisioned plans, perhaps we can view it as an opportunity to identify social problems and enact change, to reevaluate the value placed on science, or even consider the pros and cons of our current methods of knowledge production.
COVID-19 might be the biggest uncertainty for all of us, but it’s nothing we cannot handle. Whether you graduated in 2020 or 1960, life is filled with adversity, challenge, and hardship. Like the Lafayette graduates who came before us, the Class of 2020 will be making transitions to the professional world, graduate school, and adult life. We must look to Lafayette alumni as examples of strength and, more importantly, beacons of hope that it will eventually work out.
And we wouldn’t be at Lafayette if we didn’t like a good challenge. Our namesake, Marquis de Lafayette, emboldens us each day with the phrase “Cur non,” or “why not.” Before COVID-19, our “Cur non(s)” were about taking big risks for big rewards. Maybe we just need to refashion our mantra to fit the times.
While Lafayette’s words once asked us to do something big, maybe he can help us to slow down.
Living in a time when some are unsure whether food will be put on the table, electricity will be on, or they will have a job the next day, our “Cur non” doesn’t have to be so big. Perhaps at the heart of the pandemic is a chance to step back and give thanks for our lives, and those people we hold closest to our hearts.
Coronavirus might be the biggest challenge we will face, but it will surely prepare us all for a future full of adversity, hard work, and successes. This might not be the postgraduate experience we imagined, but we still have the power to write our own stories. At the end of the day, what matters most is how we respond to COVID-19. If we choose our reaction and, more importantly, our “Cur non” moments, we can ensure our futures remain full of hope and ambition.