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There will be a lot less “Pomp and Circumstance” this May in Kansas and across the country.

Most graduating students won’t have the opportunity to put on those goofy gowns and caps and then join friends, family and classmates in crowded auditoriums or stadiums.

The pandemic has shut down graduation ceremonies, state athletic contests and scores of other activities that are important milestones for teenagers and young adults.

It’s a shame, and graduates have every reason to feel disappointed and cheated. This should be their time to shine.

Some friends and families are coming up with alternatives. Even as COVID-19 wrecks traditional rituals and throws into doubt much of the future, Americans are finding ways to celebrate — though it may be makeshift.

And that’s good. Graduates deserve cheers for what they have achieved. And even in these bizarre times, they should have high hopes for what they can do in the years ahead.

It’s a time to dream and to plan the next phases of life’s journey.

That’s hard to do when the world is in limbo. Colleges and schools have been shut down, and although school officials say they want to open in the fall, they are making no promises.

It’s hard to make good decisions in this unsettled environment.

Those looking to transition from education to the workplace are in an even tougher spot. While a few sectors of the economy are doing well, most have seen steep losses. Many businesses will never recover.

Rare is the business or organization looking to hire, given the uncertainty of how long shutdowns will continue and what the new normal will look like.

Given that, it’s understandable that some people are angrily demanding the economy “re-open.”

If only it were so simple.

It’s not government-mandated restrictions that have devastated our economic and social worlds. The culprit is a serious, highly contagious illness for which there is no vaccine or cure.

A look across the nation seems to show that states that refused to restrict people or businesses experienced big economic losses too. I say “seems” because it will take a lot more time and study to learn what kinds of government action or inaction made things better or worse.

It’s not as easy as comparing State A to State B because the pandemic is far from over. We’ll see more surges and some resurgence. Plus, there are other variables to consider, such as the kinds of businesses in a state and differing demographics.

But it’s clear that doing nothing did not safeguard either lives or the economy. It’s similarly clear that going back to life as it was is not an option.

As graduates and others look to move forward, they will need to look in new directions.

And we do need to move forward. We need to find ways to let Kansans — graduates and others — build their futures.

It will take more than yelling at the governor.

Or blaming the president.

But it’s possible. Some nations have embarked on the next phase of the journey. They are working toward a new normal, dealing with COVID-19 as a hazard that will be around awhile.

It will take more testing. And it will take intelligence, cooperation, planning and work. The kind Kansas graduates can offer as they and the state forge ahead.

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.