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Virus can’t take lessons, memories

Commentary: A message to 2020 graduates

I offer congratulations and a challenge to the Chautauqua Lake Central School Class of 2020.

Everybody feels the disappointment of your class not being able to experience a traditional, formal graduation ceremony. Some of the pomp and circumstance has been “stolen” from you. It seems unfair, especially after the arduous journey of the past twelve years.

Life’s setbacks can seem cruel at times. They can also motivate and inspire. Hopefully, you can still appreciate and embrace the good that you’ve experienced, as well as the good you’ve created.

I’ve always been impressed by the incredible diversity of your CLCS activities and opportunities: charities, sports for men and women, choir, band, advanced preparatory classes, swim teams, outreach to the elderly, community involvement, academic successes and good citizenship. I salute you for all that you’ve done to enhance your respective towns. You did your part and I congratulate and thank you.

As you depart CLCS and start down your paths to the future, don’t ever forget the wonderful experiences you had growing up in a small town(s) where people knew each other, watched out for each other, loved each other and where you were given a great education by teachers who cared for and loved you more than you sometimes thought.

The challenges you will face in today’s world are daunting. A nation at war with a dangerous virus. Division and political dissent abound. Unstable global economies. Nuclear weapons in the hands of unkind rulers. Uncertainty about our country and your future.

What can you do? Say yes to hard work, to yourselves, to positive thinking, to perseverance, to doing the next right thing and for contributing to the greater good. Always fall back on the values you were taught by your parents, your teachers, your church and, of course, your friends and fellow students. You will eventually be leaders in many different venues. We all know that you are well prepared for the challenges you will face. CLCS made sure of that. I salute and thank your teachers and mentors.

For me, it took a while to fully appreciate how fortunate I was to have grown up in Mayville (Class of 1961). That’s why I still cherish my roots in this little town, above Chautauqua’s waters, where there was always much good to celebrate. I hope that you,too, will also hold a special place in your heart for Mayville and CLCS. Those beautiful memories will ‘haunt’ you for a very long time. That’s a good thing.

My favorite expression: ”You only keep what you have by giving it away.” Never forget to volunteer to help those who are less fortunate and in need. You’ve been doing just that for a long time already; never stop.

Importantly, the world needs more grace. Show grace to everyone, regardless of their circumstances. We’re all doing the best we can.

Terry Clark, MD, is a resident of Clemson, S.C. and a member of the Mayville Central School Class of 1961.

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