Opinion

‘America Honors the High School Class of 2020’ virtual graduation used to highlight world suffering

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Timing is everything, and it may not be the best time to pull on the heartstrings of Americans struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday night, a virtual graduation ceremony was broadcast across the major TV networks that featured former President Barack Obama and others, to include Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate ever who took a remarkably courageous stand for the education of women in third world countries.

The hour-long event, titled “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020,” was hosted by XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation and The Entertainment Industry Foundation, and Yousafzai spoke of children around the world who may never return to classrooms after the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting they would be forced into marriages or low-paying jobs.

“Across the world, COVID-19 has forced one billion students out of school,” she said, “but for most of us, this is temporary and we’ll continue our education and follow our dreams.”

“But many girls, especially in developing countries, will never return to the classroom,” Yousafzai continued. “Because of this crisis, they will be forced into early marriages or low paying jobs to support their families, and when schools re-open, their desks will be empty.”

The education activist then called on graduates to not forget about these girls.

“They are our peers. They have the same right to education as we do,” Yousafzai said. “So I ask you to remember them today as you go out and change the world, don’t leave them behind.”

Trouble is, there are a growing number of Americans being left behind as a result of the pandemic.

Yes, Yousafzai’s message is important and many Americans care about the education of young girls around the world. At the same time, people in the U.S. may be excused if they feel there’s enough on their plates at the moment.

Small business owners are being forced to risk jail and steep fines to open their doors amid an unprecedented national lockdown. A decision driven by a desperate need to feed their children and pay their bills.

After dedicating their lives to the dream of owning their own business, many of these entrepreneurs are unable to sustain the crushing losses being accrued. Business after business is being forced to close permanently, and along with is are the loss of jobs.

Large corporations are not immune either, as seen on Friday when retailer giant JC Penny filed for bankruptcy as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The company was the fourth national retailer to file for bankruptcy in the month of May, joining J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and Stage Stores.

In addition, the U.S. has seen the biggest spike in unemployment in history, with over 36 million people filing for unemployment assistance since early March.

So, yes, the education of young girls is important, and Yousafzai is to be commended for continuing to give voice to the cause. But for some, putting food on their tables to feed their children may take precedence for now.

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Tom Tillison

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