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Advice for the Class of 2022

Excerpts from Mayor Ashcraft’s commencement address to Alameda High School’s Class of 2022.

Congratulations to the Class of 2022! On June 9, I attended commencement ceremonies for Alameda and Encinal High Schools. Watching these bright young people cross the stage to accept their diplomas filled me with hope for them, and our future.

Alameda Post - Hornets and Jets Class of 2022

As an Alameda High grad, I was honored to be invited by the Senior Class to be their commencement speaker. Here’s an excerpt of what I told my fellow Hornets:

“Looking out at all of you makes me think of my high school years, although back then I was a shy, nerdy girl who could never have imagined becoming Mayor of the city where I grew up and standing in front of you today. So, be open to possibilities, and say “yes” to opportunities, even if they scare you.

Much has changed since I attended high school, but I think my class shared many of the same hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties that you’re experiencing. I’d like to share some advice I wish my younger self had known, that may help guide you, as you embark on an exciting, new chapter of your life.

First, and foremost, take care of yourself. Pay attention to your physical and mental health. Eat healthy food and get enough sleep. Find ways to manage stress – take a walk, go for a run, hang out with friends, walk your dog. And please seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed – depressed – anxious – not yourself. Tell someone.

Be kind. Make it a habit to reach out to people who might be struggling. Look for someone who could use a smile, a “hello,” someone to sit next to. Give others the benefit of the doubt, and extend that same kindness, and forgiveness, to yourself.

Speak up and speak out when you see or hear something you know isn’t right – a racist joke, a hurtful remark, bullying behavior. Your speaking up might also inspire others to follow your example.

Be curious about the world around you. Keep reading the news, and if you have the opportunity to travel, take it. Be curious about other people. Ask the follow-up question: “Tell me more about that.” “Help me understand what you meant when you said…”

Be a good citizen. I encourage you to think about the concept of citizenship more broadly than simply being the citizen of a country. Citizenship also includes being engaged in your community, serving others in whatever way you can, being involved in something bigger than yourself. Good citizens care about what happens to the people around them. Citizenship, when viewed from this perspective, can provide a valuable sense of purpose and direction.

Alameda Post - Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and CA State Controller Betty Yee
Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and CA State Controller Betty Yee speak at a rally opposing the SCOTUS overturning Roe v. Wade on the steps of Alameda City Hall, June 24, 2022. Photo Adam Gillitt.

At a minimum, register to vote the minute you’re eligible, and vote in every single election. Volunteer for causes and candidates you believe in. Don’t accept the status quo. Run for office! We need your fresh ideas, perspectives, and enthusiasm as we continue working to achieve the promise of a more perfect union.

It is a truism that every generation faces its own unique challenges – and your generation has already faced many. You’ve experienced a pandemic, and the loneliness and isolation of “Zoom school” as our country, and the world faced upheaval: racial injustice, climate change, the invasion of Ukraine, gun violence. But every challenge also shapes leaders who resist, fight back, and inspire others. Like Volodymyr Zelenskyy. You might be one of them.

I am confident that you are equal to whatever challenges you encounter going forward because over these last couple of years, I’ve watched with awe and admiration as you confronted injustice, demanded change, and found constructive ways to serve your community.

Class of 2022, I’m so proud of all you’ve accomplished so far, and can’t wait to see what you do in the future. Congratulations to you and your families!”

COVID Updates: Alameda County recently lifted its indoor mask requirement, but public health officials still strongly recommend wearing masks in indoor public places.

COVID vaccines are now available for children six months and older, and the CDC recommends that all children, including those who’ve had COVID-19, get vaccinated. Families of children six months to four years should schedule appointments with their pediatrician’s office. Children three years and older can also get their vaccines at Alameda pharmacies, and Children’s Hospital Oakland provides pediatric COVID vaccines on a drop-in basis or by appointment, no insurance needed.

After a two-year “pandemic pause,” the 4th of July Parade is back! Can’t wait to see you there! 5K Run/Walk benefitting Midway Shelter starts at 9 a.m.; Parade starts promptly at 10 a.m.

Have a Fun, Healthy Summer and Stay Alameda Strong!

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft is Mayor of the City of Alameda. Reach her at [email protected].

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