Drury High School graduation ceremony

Drury High School graduates wait for the curtain to open in the auditorium before the start of the ceremony on Thursday evening.

For graduates, this time of year can be at once wonderful, chaotic and strange — and as we only just begin to emerge from the COVID era, the strangeness likely feels off the charts this year.

After a school year and a half unlike any other in recent history, the “Pomp and Circumstance” is well-earned.

As seniors toss their caps and embrace in celebration, they can do so knowing that they’re here because you conquered the obstacles of a coronavirus-stricken year that many previous classes couldn’t have imagined.

To be sure, parents, teachers and administrators also deserve a round of applause for shouldering this past year’s unique burdens and making graduation day possible.

Every spring, graduate ceremonies are peppered with platitudes about marching forth to flourish and shape society anew. This year, though, these platitudes have a new, more pressing ring to them.

The leaders of tomorrow now take a big step into a world still shaken by the biggest global health crisis in more than a century.

The finish line of an odd and challenging senior year serves as the threshold to a new world flush with uncertainty and potential, with volatility and newly learned resilience. These young people venture forward now among the first to find careers, nurture families and build lives of their own in the quickly approaching post-COVID era.

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Beyond that, we’re asking them to foster our collective futures in a world where a pandemic has laid bare our starkest vulnerabilities, divisions and inequalities.

This is no easy task. Here’s the kicker, graduates: We have faith in you — because we must.

A dark year has in many ways exposed the worst of us — shortsightedness, polarization, prejudice. But every June, a new class of young adults manifest hope out of thin air by embodying the best of us: vitality, optimism, fearlessness.

The graduates who have met the challenge of the past year are now ready for greater challenges, including the greatest of them all: building a brighter tomorrow for us all.

Learn from our mistakes. You’ll make a few of your own — learn from those ones, too. Work hard. We depend on you, and we believe in you.

Congratulations, Class of 2021.