The graduation season is upon us, so today I am congratulating the members of the Class of 2022 who overcame the expected difficulties of high school and college and then surmounted the totally unexpected challenges of a worldwide pandemic.
COVID-19 forced you to do many things differently. You attended some classes virtually from time to time. You might have missed some extracurricular activities such as music programs, competitive sports, and clubs.
For all that you missed, you also learned some lessons that you wouldn’t have otherwise. You watched leaders at all levels of health care and government assess the medical information and decide how to combat COVID-19 and how to keep Americans safe. We witnessed robust debate about the intersection of science, medicine, public opinion, and emotion. I imagine that these are lessons many of you will take into your careers, whether you are in public service or the private sector.
In Arkansas, we went virtual in our schools for a short time. We knew the best outcome for our students was to return them to in-classroom instruction as soon as possible. And we did. Our Department of Education worked with school districts all over the state to implement procedures and protocols to ensure in-classroom learning continued. Secretary of Education Johnny Key and educators in all corners of Arkansas sometimes worked seven days a week to support our teachers and students.
As we come out of the pandemic, we are enjoying all of our traditions, including graduation. I join you in your success as I imagine the sights and sounds as you walk across the stage, receive your diploma to the tune “Pomp and Circumstance,” your caps flying in the air as you finish one era of your life and head into the next.
Graduation time is a good time to pause and reflect on the challenges and what you have learned to overcome the next challenge.
As you look to the next stage of your life, don’t forget the people who helped you get to this point: your family, your friends, your teachers and professors, and your mentors. You can thank them in person, and you can thank them by passing on their good work in your life when it’s your turn to mentor and lead.
The world needs your insight, creativity, energy, perseverance, and compassion. Graduation is not the end of your education but a brief stop on your way to learning even more. Learning never ends, and as you already have experienced, life will be a hard taskmaster. But never give up, because your greatest victories will come out of your greatest trials.
My Number 1 goal has been to make Arkansas an even greater place to live, work, and raise a family. Many of you in the class of ’22 will go to far-away places to chase your dreams. I wish you Godspeed. But wherever that may lead, I hope your path eventually brings you back home to join us in making Arkansas the best place in the world.