Addressing the Class of 2020, Europe’s Slow COVID-19 Response, U.S. Households Struggling


  • A Valedictory For This Year’s Graduates
  • Europe Still Needs to Do More
  • How The Other Half Lives

To the college class of 2020:

I was looking forward to seeing all of you and your families at the football stadium for commencement. I wrote this really inspiring speech, and I was anticipating multiple rounds of applause. I was going to encourage you to follow your dreams, get up one more time than you fall, and remember that you are part of a broader society that needs your engagement. And then: to the buffet!

Instead of that grand setting, I have been reduced to offering my remarks via video conference. Please remember to put your microphones on mute, press #6 to reach an operator, and enter the applause emoji in the comments box whenever you feel moved to do so. Afterwards, I invite all of you to go to your own refrigerators and help yourself to some snacks.

Graduates, it is terribly unfortunate that you are not able to enjoy the pomp and pageantry that normally attends such a significant achievement. You’ve all worked very hard to get to this point…well, with the exception of the last two months, when you were looking at Instagram photos instead of your online lectures. You have earned the right to rejoice: with friends at the campus bar (no need for fake ID anymore!) and in more formal settings with faculty and family. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has intervened.

Weekly Economic Commentary - 05/22/20 - Chart 1

The pandemic has not only interrupted your senior year celebrations, it has created one of the most challenging job markets in decades. I know some of you are still struggling to find employment; others have had offers deferred or rescinded. Those able to start work will likely be doing so from your parent’s homes, as factories and offices aren’t ready to receive you yet. Orientation will be… disorienting.

“The pandemic is producing some hard times for colleges and graduates.”

The colleges you are leaving are also dealing with a challenging new reality. Social distancing may make it difficult for students to return to campus in the fall; some schools have already announced remote learning will continue through the end of the calendar year. It’s not clear whether students will be willing to go as deeply into debt if they can’t interface with the faculty at close range.