Note To The Graduating Class Of 2020
On the evening of Thursday May 21, I was jolted out of my sofa by a police siren followed by the loud horn of a fire engine. Something was going on, so I went outside to look. What I saw was amazing. The police car and fire engine were followed by a long parade of cars decorated up with the Valley Forge High School graduating class of 2020. Unlike previous graduating classes, the class of 2020 could not have their traditional graduation ceremony or a senior prom.
I can feel their pain since I had a similar experience fifty year ago this spring. In the spring of 1970 I was a senior at Kent State University planning on graduating in June. Then suddenly on May 4 1970, Ohio National Guard soldiers shot 13 students at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Following the shooting, the campus was closed for what turned out to be the remainder of the spring quarter. Students living on campus had until 500 PM that afternoon to be off campus or face being arrested. They had to stuff as much of their belongings into suitcases or duffel bags and find a way off campus.
No one then knew when or if classes would resume. There was talk that us seniors would not be able to graduate in June as expected since no one knew how they would complete their courses for the spring term. I wasn’t affected by that as much as others since I was staying at my parent’s house in Parma while I was student teaching at Berea High School that spring. But my younger brother was living in a dorm on campus and he had to come back home. A friend of his who lived in Queens New York came back with him since he couldn’t go back home right away.
My father was furious about the possibility that I might not get to graduate in June as planned. He said that he paid for four years of my college education and he expected to see me graduate. He wasn’t alone. Many other parents of June graduates flooded the university offices as well as the governor’s office. I remember attending a meeting held at Case Western Reserve University on Friday May 8 for graduating seniors at Kent State that almost broke out into a riot when the university official said they we might not graduate.
After that meeting, the university decided to make arrangements to continue the spring quarter remotely. There was no internet in 1970 so everyone had to rely on postal mail and telephone calls with professors and instructors. The university scheduled the graduation ceremonies as originally planned on Saturday June 13. Somehow everyone got through all right. When students had to leave the campus immediately on May 4, most left their textbooks behind, so any distance learning had to happen without textbooks.
Kent State wasn’t the only college campus that closed in the spring of 1970. Both Ohio University in Athens and Ohio State University in Columbus also closed following student riots after the Kent State shootings. Many other college campuses across the country closed for the remainder of the spring term in 1970.
That is what it was like fifty years ago for many college students and especially for the class of 1970. We got through it all right as will the graduates of 2020. Like me, you will carry those memories with you for life.
We cannot choose the world or the times in which we grow up. However, we have the power to change the times after we go out into the world. When I graduated from college in 1970, the war in Vietnam was still raging with many Americans dying. There also was a military draft in 1970 and upon my graduation from college, I would lose my college student deferment from the draft and be subject to being drafted into military service.
The specter of the war in Vietnam as well as the distinct possibility that I might get drafted into military service clouded my immediate future as well as the futures of every young man who graduated in 1970. But eventually we moved on from the Vietnam war as we will move on from the coronavirus pandemic.
Hopefully we will learn important lessons from that experience. Your experience will shape how you will make the world of the future. As far as my generation, we have much more yesterdays than tomorrows. But you and your generation have lots of tomorrows in which to make a better world. As an old sailing adage goes; “we cannot control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.”
Lee has been working with Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance since he began working at the Erie County Welfare Department in January 1973 where a major part of his job was determining eligibility for Medicaid. He went into the private insurance business in 1977 with Prudential Insurance Company and within a short time had become one of the company’s top sales agents. In 1982, he was promoted into management where he managed two field offices and as many as thirteen sales agents. After leaving Prudential in 1986, Lee decided to become more focused on health insurance and employee benefits. He has advised many local employers on how to have a more cost effective employee benefit program as well as conducted employee benefit meetings and enrollments for many area employers. The companies Lee has worked with ranged from small “mom and pop” businesses to local operations of large national companies. Lee received his B.S. degree from Kent State University where he has been active in the local alumni association. He has completed seven of the ten courses toward the Certified Employee Benefit Specialist designation. He has taught courses in employee benefits and insurance at Cleveland State University and local community colleges. In addition, Lee is an experienced and accomplished public speaker. He has been a member of Toastmasters International where he achieved the designation of “Able Toastmaster – Silver” in 1994. He has also served as a club president, Area Governor and District Public Relations Officer in Toastmasters as well as winning local speech contests. Lee has also been a member of the Greater Cleveland Growth Association’s Speaker’s Bureau where he was designated as one of the “official spokespeople for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” prior to the hall’s opening in 1995. He has given talks and presentations before many audiences including civic organizations, AARP chapters and many other community groups. With the implementation of the Medicare Modernization Act (Medicare drug bill) in 2006, Lee has shifted his focus to Medicare and helping Medicare beneficiaries navigate the often confusing array of choices and plans available. As an independent representative, Lee is not bound to any one specific company or plan, but he can offer a plan that suits an individual person’s needs and budget. In addition, Lee is well versed in the requirements and availability of various programs for assistance with Medicare part D as well as Medicaid. While he cannot make one eligible, he can assist in the process and steer one to where they may be able to receive assistance.