Class president

'The Class of 2020 is ready to make its mark'

Senior class president Pavan Patel says virtual Commencement will not define the Johns Hopkins experience for the Class of 2020

Remarks as delivered by Johns Hopkins University senior class president Pavan Patel at the universitywide virtual Commencement ceremony on May 21, 2020.

Hi everyone. My name is Pavan Patel and it has been my honor to serve as president of the Johns Hopkins class of 2020.

When I was first told I was going to be speaking at commencement, I was excited. Of course, this was not exactly what I had in mind and I know that everyone in the virtual audience shares that disappointment. While it's certainly understandable to be sad at the loss of the iconic graduation experience, it might not be a bad thing to graduate with the idea of sacrifice on our minds. Today many of us, perhaps for the first time in our lives, are making daily sacrifices: Staying inside, wearing masks, eating even more ramen noodles than normal. We sacrifice to protect older generations. To protect friends with compromised immune systems. To reduce the burden on health care workers. We sacrifice both for ourselves and for others. But the only reason we're here as graduates of the best university in the world is because of the sacrifices that others have made for us.

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When my parents arrived to the United States, they entered uncharted waters, giving up their livelihood in search of a better opportunity for my brother and me. I remember my mom giving me a light kiss every morning before her 4 a.m. shift at the post office. And my dad spending hours with my brother and me to check our homework after a long day at work. This is a time to celebrate those who have been selflessly making sacrifices for us to allow us to even get up onto this metaphorical stage. In some ways it seems like a million years ago when we worried most about meeting deadlines and our life consisted of celebrating Lighting of the Quads, participating in President's Day of Service, or the culture show. And yet, despite the crisis of the moment, our memories of Hopkins will not be a missed graduation. They will be the happy memories of Spring Fair, the NCAA championships, the life-changing professor, or maybe even the streakers in Brody.

Few classes graduate into an environment as desperately in need of our solutions and sacrifices as this one. And few schools are as well situated as Johns Hopkins to graduate problem-solvers for the present time and our shared future. We, as Hopkins graduates, are uniquely prepared to confront and overcome the crises we face and to build the world we need. And I'm confident that the class of 2020 is ready to make its mark … as soon as we're allowed to leave our parents' basement.