Class of 2020: A Global Community

Senior class born, comes-of-age during world-changing events and tragedies

President-elect+Donald+Trump%2C+joined+on+stage+by+running+mate+Mike+Pence%2C+speaks+to+supporters+at+the+Election+Night+Party+at+the+Hilton+Midtown+Hotel+in+New+York+City+on+Wednesday%2C+Nov.+9%2C+2016.

J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday/TNS/used with permission

President-elect Donald Trump, joined on stage by running mate Mike Pence, speaks to supporters at the Election Night Party at the Hilton Midtown Hotel in New York City on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016.

Vincent Buonaspina, Co-Editor-in-Chief

The global Class of 2020, possibly the most newsworthy and connected generation in history, has undergone many influential events throughout their lives. Born in the shadow of 9/11 and growing American aggression overseas throughout 2001 and 2002, this year’s graduating seniors have lived through three influential Presidential administrations, the rise of the social media colossus and a rapidly changing, progressing and warming world.

Although the oldest seniors were still newborns, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 set the stage for this class. Ushering in a “new era” for the world, many parents of the future Class of 2020 were stricken with fear regarding bringing children into that world. 

Harrison LaHaie, who was born only two weeks after the attacks, remembers hearing reminders of it everywhere, even though he did not fully understand the magnitude of it at the time.

“I specifically recall always seeing images from the war and from September 11th on the news when I was younger,” he said. “Our class specifically was the first to largely be born into a post-9/11 world.”

Born into chaos, the lives of current seniors were impacted further when the collapse of the peaceful antebellum of the 1990s turned into the War on Terror, encompassing operations in seven countries lasting since 2001. While this war did not require the “total war” stance of World War II or conscription like Vietnam, it certainly affected American culture for children growing up in its presence.

“I think it has disenchanted many seniors with the idea of intervention in the third world,” LaHaie said. “After seeing the lack of change in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s hard to argue in favor of war and intervention.”

The politics of war, combined with the corrosive financial crash of 2008, lead up to the 2008 election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, while the senior class was in first grade. While Obama was widely acclaimed among many in the Class of 2020, being the president for most of their sentient lives, his legacy exists not without criticism. 

“When reviewing what the Obama Administration actually did, not a whole lot can be said,” LaHaie noted. “Outside of the Affordable Care Act, which is still widely criticized, and some positive regulations, not a lot changed for the small towns destroyed by the recession. Obama promised ‘hope and change,’ but it was never delivered.”

Throughout the course of the Obama administration, many notable events happened: the end of the Space Shuttle program, the mysterious disappearance of MH370 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but a disturbing trend of school shootings began to appear, with the prominent catalyst being the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Conn. The shooting, resulting in more than 28 dead, had a direct impact on the senior class, who were in fifth grade at the time. 

“I remember the shootings better as they drastically increased throughout the years,” LaHaie noted. “The prospect of it happening was always sort of lurking in the back of our minds, even if the general fear of an incident always died down.”

The first entrance to politics that many seniors had was the 2016 Presidential Election, occurring between eighth grade and freshman year and being hyper-publicized through Instagram memes. The election, pitting Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, was an incredibly divisive one, with that divisiveness being present at Hoover during that campaign season. 

“I remember Trump supporters shouting their ‘MAGA’ and ‘Trump Train’ slogans down the hall the day after the election,” said John Waterhouse, a politically active senior. “I remember Clinton supporters putting on that morose mask for the week after. There were a few bitter arguments here and there, with insults being the prominent aspect.”

Waterhouse, who supported Bernie Sanders in both the 2016 and 2020 elections, is one of many new political activists within the Class of 2020. He states that the political urgency felt on both sides since the 2016 election has helped propel political interest in the Class of 2020.

Alex Massa, a senior and President of Speech and Debate, remembers the growth of issue-based activism after the 2016 election, specifically March For Our Lives and the Climate Strikes.

“A lot of political awareness was raised after the 2016 Election,” he said. “While Hoover was one of the only schools in the area without any major event during the March For Our Lives walkout, and no major climate action has been taken, these movements have caused a lot of understanding. Then, with the advent of Bipartisan Club and AP Government, students became more engaged.”

 The Trump presidency has brought out an onslaught of young political activists from all political dimensions, active on social media and loudly advocating for their political ideas. This nationwide movement struck Hoover as well.

“I first got into politics during the 2016 election,” said Travis Chambers, a senior. “But I really didn’t start having a better understanding until the year after when I realized just how important the election was; [it] really pushed me to be more politically active.”

Chambers said that, while the 2016 election was important for his political development, the most newsworthy event of the Class of 2020’s school career is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s happening right at the end when we were planning on celebrating all of our achievements throughout our 12 years at school,” he said. “So it hits especially hard.”

The Class of 2020 underwent numerous newsworthy events throughout the past few years. This includes the rise of the climate change movement, Brexit, the Jan. 2020 tensions with Iran, the 2020 Presidential Election and many others; however, the novel coronavirus pandemic ceased all other world events beginning in March 2020. To John Waterhouse, this is the most important news event of seniors’ lifetimes.

“This pandemic has made manifest global events within our daily lives,” he said. “Every one of us has been impacted by this in one way or another, and our lives will undoubtedly never be the same. But that’s life. That’s history. We all have a part in history, and this has made it transparent now more than ever.”

Alex Massa agrees with this, but sees that the catastrophic pandemic event will not negatively affect the Class of 2020 like many other major events of our lives.

“Regardless of how our school year ends, we are by far the most successful class in Hoover’s recent history,” Massa said. “Not just in Hoover, but the global 2020 class will be some of the biggest achievers of the century. Just at Hoover we have students going to Harvard and other Ivy Leagues, successful athletes and teams like boys soccer and girls tennis, the best speech and debate team in decades, a legendary band, and so much more. Our generation has been through a lot: we were born in 9/11 and grew up in the midst of a disgusting war. Our lives were shaped with atrocity, just like our senior year; however, that has never held us back. I see this as acting as a motivator. Despite the hurdles, our grade’s societal setbacks have only done the opposite: united us.” ♦