Well, young ladies and gentlemen, members of the Class of 2020 ... here it is.

The big day.

The one you — and your parents — thought would never get here!

You made it!

Can I get a .... YEEEEHAAHHHHH!!!!!

Praise the Lord and pass the diploma!

Thirteen or more years of attending classes, doing homework, taking a gazillion tests, spending time with your friends, cheering at or participating in sporting events, and a thousand other memories that you hopefully will cherish for the rest of your lives.

Even though many of those good times and memories of your “senior year” were cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, which I am sure was a huge disappointment to all of you, please remember this ... everything’s gonna be OK!

Yes, most of you lost your proms.

You lost your spring sports seasons.

You lost a ton of great fellowship with your fellow seniors in what should have been the best last year of school of your lives.

And for most of you, graduations will be “abbreviated”, at best, because school officials are still trying to abide with “social distancing” orders and juggle how to give you some semblance on normalcy in a graduation exercise.

But with all of that said, enjoy this time ... even with all of the disappointments caused by COVID-19.

Years from now you will still remember how it felt to look in that mirror on graduation day and see the face of promise.

No matter where you move or what you do in life, you will look back with nostalgia on these “good old days” — COVID “bug” and all! — and give anything if you could go back and re-live just one week, one day, one hour.

This also means you aren’t a kid anymore, but a full-fledged young adult with all of the privileges, rights and responsibilities (and problems!) that come with being a grown-up.

I encourage you to use those rights and privileges wisely, and sprinkled with a good dose of common sense.

Never forget that YOU, graduates of today, are the leaders of tomorrow ... the movers and shakers who will take this county, this state, and this nation to whatever its future destiny may be.

Some will tell you that it will be an easy, pain-free, stress-free, problem-less ride. It won’t. Especially now, in the post-COVID world in which we find ourselves.

There will be potholes, headaches and heartaches along the way on the winding, sometimes treacherous road we call “life”.

But there will be far more smiles and mountaintop highs for you as you make your way in the world, which will make the valleys and gray, foggy days and times of “winter” seem far, far away.

It’s all in how you choose to handle what life throws at you.

As the cliché goes, you can look at your glass as half empty or half full.

You can take the high road, soar with eagles, aim for the stars, and make a positive difference in this world, or take the lower path chosen by some and wallow in the mud, party with pigs, act like idiots and pretty much settle for whatever comes along.

YOU will determine your future.

Good or bad, right or wrong, success or failure, from this point forward you cannot point fingers or blame others for what happens.

The choice is yours.

Make the best of it.

Remember, the Constitution of the United States does not guarantee one’s happiness ... only the right to pursue it. As an American, you enjoy freedoms and opportunities that are found nowhere else on the face of this planet. The good old U.S. of A. may have its problems, but I can tell you from experience, there’s no other place I would choose to live.

That’s why it is so important that YOU pitch in and help to make it a better place for all citizens, including yourself and your loved ones.

You graduates have fresh ideas, inquiring minds, and skill sets that those of my generation never had available to us, and innovative new ways of dealing with old issues.

Many of you will be heading off to colleges and universities, and many to trade schools.

A good number of you “Seniors of 2020” will become the newest heroes in the U.S. Military, and if that is your choice, THANK YOU and may God bless you for deciding that our country and the freedoms we enjoy are worth fighting and dying for.

Some of you will go directly into the work force.

Others may choose to marry and raise families.

All are great choices.

Just think long and hard about what it is you really want in life and then go for it. Don’t let anyone talk you out of choosing a career field or a calling that you really feel led to because, trust me, I allowed someone to talk me out of following my own dream many years ago and I have kicked myself a million times in the years since and wished that I had followed my heart and my conscience.

It isn’t their life, after all ... it’s yours.

Follow your heart!

And whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.

Be a giver, not a taker.

Smile a lot.

Learn to not sweat the small stuff. Too many people complicate their lives (and the lives of others) by majoring on minors. Life is too short ... it just ain’t worth it.

Compliment others ... often.

Complain, bellyache, whine and make lame excuses as little as possible (it will earn you a lot more friends!)

Avoid pointing fingers of blame because when you do, remember you have three of your own pointing right back at you.

Volunteer whenever possible to help those less fortunate, not with a hand-out but a hand-up.

VOTE ... in every election, and never let any dimwitted doofus tell you that your vote doesn’t count. It does. But do your homework carefully ... and vote for the candidate whom YOU think is the best, not who someone tells you is the best.

Give 110% of your best to your employer. Raises and job security depend on you making yourself as valuable as possible to that man or woman who signs your paychecks.

Remember, too, that while jobs and careers are important, they are not nearly as important as that man or woman and the smiling faces of the little ones who wait for you to come home at night.

Be respectful, be courteous, be kind, be mindful of your appearance, pay your bills on time, never walk away from a debt or an obligation, and do your best to see yourself as others see you.

Live every day as if it were your last, and make sure that those you love know it, because you never know when you walk out that door in the morning if you will live to see the sunset that afternoon, or to have a chance to tell that special someone just how much he or she means to you.

Statistically, after you graduate, it is unlikely that you will ever see some of your fellow classmates again.

Some will move far away.

Others will forget you ever existed.

A few will die at a young age in accidents; others will lose their lives as a result of incurable diseases or criminal activity.

The time you are together on graduation day, if you are lucky enough to have a ceemony, will in all probability be the last time that your entire class will be assembled at the same place at one time.

Savor your time together.

And always remember that, in spite of its problems, America is still the best country on the face of the earth in which to live, work, and raise a family.

No other nation offers young people such a wide-open opportunity to “make it” in life.

So with that said, graduates, I ask you — no, I beg of you — to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

The Constitution guarantees all Americans several things, but a “free ride” and “easy money” is not among ‘em

No one owes you anything.

President John F. Kennedy said it best when he challenged Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Faith in God, hard work, determination, character, education, using common sense to work through your problems, and a good name will take you to mountaintop altitudes that you cannot even begin to imagine.

As the publisher of your hometown community newspapers in Hawkins and Hancock counties, I just want each of you to know that I am VERY, VERY PROUD of you and your accomplishments.

Get that diploma, then go out in the world and show us what you can do!

Best wishes and congratulations to all of the graduates in our area from all of us at The Rogersville Review and The Hancock Co. Eagle.

WE ARE PROUD OF YOU!

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