Graduates of elementary school, high school, college, graduate school, and the professional programs in business and law of the FEU Group of Schools:

Congratulations on completing the requirements of your academic programs even under the most inauspicious, trying and stressful, but also the most unique of circumstances.

• Inauspicious because who could have predicted that you would be graduating during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic that has held the entire Planet Earth hostage? Given the state of things, we cannot even give you a proper recognition and send-off by holding the usual commencement exercises and formal conferment of your academic degrees.
• Trying and stressful because the last part of your school days must have been fraught with problems
that challenged your emotional reserves and overall state of well-being – what with classes being abruptly canceled and the community quarantine being suddenly imposed.
• But also unique because your lives since mid-March, including today, and up to whenever we will finally be able to come out of the shadow of covid-19 will be the grist of countless stories for the ages, anecdotes that will be told and retold to your children and grandchildren as well as in your class reunions.

Again, congratulations for pulling through. Your doing so speaks volumes about who you are –
persons of sustained resolve and dedication, who are not so easily derailed from the pursuit of your education and life goals.

Congratulations, too, to your parents, families, benefactors, and friends.
Your achievement honors them. You cannot have achieved this milestone in your life without their love and support.
Then, on your behalf, I must congratulate and thank your teachers for developing your minds and enlarging your spirits. Of your teachers may be said the following words:

“Those who are learned will be as radiant as the sky in all its beauty;
those who instruct the people in goodness will shine like the stars for all eternity” (Antiphon of the Gospel Canticle, Morning Prayer, Common of Doctors of the Church).

As you now prepare to move on to the next chapters of your lives, whether to high school, college, graduate or professional school, or the world of work, I wish to send you off with
an exhortation and two challenges.

The exhortation comes from the speech of Winston Churchill, the British prime minister during World War 2, when he visited Harrow, his old school, on October 29, 1941. Churchill said:

This is the lesson: never give in, never give in …in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy …

In other words, in the vocabulary of FEU, practice Fortitude and be brave.

As for the two challenges, let me issue them in the form of questions.

First, how are you conducting yourself while we are still under some form of quarantine?
Are you giving in to feelings of helplessness, to depression, and to despair?

Or are you instead using this time of sheltering in place to pray and meditate
(to strengthen your inner reserves); to bond with your parents, siblings, and other members of your household
(to develop a closer relationship with them); and, in general, to be a more kind, giving, compassionate, and loving person?

Second, how are you preparing yourself for the world after covid-19?
Because we will conquer this virus. It is only a matter of time.
And that day may come as early as next January if all goes well with the Oxford University vaccine that is currently the most advanced of the 180 vaccines in development or as late as 2022. But that day is coming.

So how are you preparing for that day?
Have you considered who that covid-survivor version of you will be?
Will that person be a better version of who you are now?
Have you mapped out the development journey of your transformation to that future, better you?

On a bigger scale, have you imagined how you want the post-covid world to be like? Don’t you want it to be a world that has learned the necessary lessons so that it will already know how to deal with another pandemic or similar ills, such as those coming from climate change?

How can you contribute to creating that world?
How will you prepare yourself, your family, and your community
for your imagined post-covid world?

Think about it: When the dawn from on high breaks upon us,
to shine on us who dwell in covid’s darkness and shadow of death,how can you help guide humanity’s steps into the way of peace and sustainable prosperity?

Class of 2020, let Churchill’s exhortation and these two challenges
be the beacons of your life – your graduation assignment, so to speak.
Ponder them well, often, and deeply.
Act on strengthening your resolve to never give in.
Act on the solutions you come up with to surmount the two challenges.

By having the exhortation and the two challenges as your guiding lights,
I assure you that you will have a meaningful, well-lived life.

Again, congratulations and good luck!