Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a commencement speech to 2020 university graduates at Carleton University in Ottawa on Wednesday, beginning by saying this day is nothing like they imagined it would be.
“The world is a much different place than anyone would have predicted, even a year ago,” Trudeau said. “No student gets to choose the world into which they graduate but if you could, and let’s be honest here, you probably wouldn’t have chosen the world of 2020.”
The prime minister listed off a number of tragedies that have occurred around the world in the first six months of the year, including the Australian bush fires, the worst mass shooting in Canada’s history in Nova Scotia, and of course the COVID-19 pandemic.
“2020 has also exposed the limitations and flaws of our world, the world that you are set to inherit,” Trudeau said, adding it is a “wake up call” that the younger generation is needed.
“Make no mistake, getting a degree is a momentous achievement but you never needed a piece of paper to call out injustice,” the prime minister said. “You didn’t wait for this day to demand change, to create change.”
Trudeau equated the 2020 graduating class to the graduates of 1939, the “greatest generation” who went through the Great Depression and into World War II.
“They built the institutions that carried us through the second half of the 20th century,” the prime minister said. “They set the world on a path of more solidarity, more compassion, more understanding.”
Trudeau told the graduating class of 2020 the choices they make in the future will “decide the future of our country and of our world.”
Related to COVID-19, the prime minister said the younger generation have stepped up to help fight the health crisis and protect more vulnerable Canadians.
“It’s time that we reclaim the idea of community, of being a good neighbour, of being a good friend,” the prime minister said. “You understand not just the value but the power of community, better than most, and that’s why I trust that you will be the 21st century’s greatest generation.”
“You know what is wrong with the world and how to fix it. Your job is not only to challenge people like me but to bring us along.”
Trudeau went on to say Canada is still a “work in progress” and these younger Canadians have “enthusiastically embraced” the truth that the country needs to continue improving.
“No one gets to choose the world into which they graduate but you do get to choose the world that will be your legacy,” the prime minister said. “You, the class of 2020, are different, you were always different...you care about what happens next.”