Justice Roberts tells graduating seniors to remember ‘others are suffering’ in the wake of COVID-19

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts told graduating seniors at his son’s high school that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic should teach us all “humility” and compassion, and urged them to remember those lessons as they go out to make their marks on the world.

According to the Associated Press, Roberts told students at the Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut that the coronavirus outbreak has “pierced our illusion of certainty and control” in a video posted Saturday to the school’s website.

“Others are suffering, too”

According to a tracker from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has seen nearly 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the outbreak first began earlier this year.

But the chief justice did not limit his remarks to those who had died from the virus and their loved ones; he also mentioned those who have been impacted by job losses and business closures, as well as pandemic-induced isolation.

“Others are suffering, too, and many will be for a long time,” Roberts said, according to the AP. “Those who have lost jobs or small businesses or whose hopes and dreams may be slowly drifting out of reach.”

People that the students may meet even years from now “may bear scars you cannot see,” Roberts said, as the AP reported Saturday.

“This is your moment”

A MetLife survey cited by MarketWatch in mid-April said 43% of small businesses would need to shut down permanently if they didn’t get help soon, and many states are still largely shut down more than a month later. A different study showed that 40% of households making less than $40,000 annually had lost one or more jobs, CNBC reported.

Roberts, for his part, knows that the challenges facing society in the aftermath of the pandemic and related shutdowns will require young adults to adapt in new ways.

“This is your moment, your time to begin leaving your mark on the world,” he told graduates, adding that they would need courage to do so during the difficult time, according to the AP.

Changes in Washington and beyond

The coronavirus has also taken its toll on the Supreme Court, which has been hearing oral arguments by telephone, the AP noted in its report. Many of the justices are in a higher risk group for complications from the disease because of their age.

Roberts did not use the speech to discuss any of the court’s cases or his experience with remote arguments, the AP noted, instead sticking to the subject at hand and attempting to make the students’ graduation a more memorable experience in the middle of a pandemic that has made most graduations virtual.

Others to have delivered virtual commencement addresses this spring include the likes of former President Barack Obama, actor Tom Hanks, and talk show host-turned-philanthropist Oprah Winfrey.

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