The Class of '09 will be graduating at a time that is both one of the most difficult and the most hopeful of any class in generations. With America still fighting two wars overseas and the economy in the midst of an ongoing collapse, these kids have a lot to deal with. Then again, they've also lived through one of the most exciting elections in U.S. history. That's not to mention the many pop-culture phenomena that have blossomed in the past year.
So, forget the "Pomp and Circumstance," it's time to look back at the milestones, from Barack Obama to "Twilight," that have defined the times for the Class of '09.
The Election: Every generation has its indelible moments, from the Vietnam War and the civil-rights movement to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. And this class can boast of its own monumental event: the election of the country's first black president. After a bruising primary battle with now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, followed by an equally intense fight against Republican Senator John McCain, Obama handily won November's election thanks in large part to an energized block of youth voters.
[movie id="369195"]"Twilight"[/movie]: Guilty as charged. We did as much as anyone to spark the fire under the raging bonfire that is author Stephanie Meyer's vampire saga of Bella Swan and her be-fanged beloved, Edward Cullen. The mega-best-selling book series — which some have tagged as the new "Harry Potter" — begat the smash movie, which made millions of fans of all ages obsessed with the strange goings on in Forks, Washington. The first movie sequel, "New Moon," is already in the works, and if the "Twilight" sweep at the MTV Movie Awards is any indication, the shrieking will likely continue for several years go come.
Twitter: How did we know what Ashton Kutcher was up to before Twitter? The free, three-year-old, micro-blogging app that swallowed the Internet in 2009 — 140 characters at a time — seemingly vaulted overnight from obscurity to 55 million monthly visits. Kutcher, of course, became the first celeb to reach the 1 million follower mark, but he wasn't the only one obsessively chronicling his every move. Politicians Tweeted during President Obama's State of the Union; Blink-182 spilled the beans on their summer reunion tour; Erykah Badu Tweeted while in labor. Even if some A-listers (Britney? 50 Cent?) are paying folks to Tweet for them, Twitter will likely be the Class of '09's equivalent to the hula hoop or Napster — only, you know, shorter.
The Recession: The good news is that some experts believe we're already on our way back up after hitting rock bottom. The bad news is that the Class of '09 is graduating into one of the worst economic meltdowns in U.S. history. That means money for college will be tight, if it's there at all and if their parents aren't among the nearly 15 million unemployed. It also means that the money they had socked away for college may be going to keep the house out of foreclosure. They might even be competing with one of their parents' friends for that entry-level job. On the upside, historic meltdowns have always created tons of new opportunities and businesses, so young entrepreneurs out there with a world-beating idea have a wide lane all to themselves. Just think, by the time you get out of college, this whole mess could be turning around!
[artist id="3061469"]Lady Gaga[/artist]: Every generation gets the pop diva it deserves: Madonna, Janet, Britney, Fergie, Gwen Stefani. For the class of '09, it's Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, a.k.a. Lady Gaga. The 23-year-old New York sensation has blown up over the past year, crossing over from dance clubs to the mainstream on the back of three titanic disco hits — [video id="230371"]"Just Dance,"[/video] [video id="294748"]"Poker Face"[/video] and [video id="392357"]"LoveGame"[/video] — as her debut album, The Fame, slowly racked up more than 2 million in worldwide sales. In addition to serving as the soundtrack to every school dance the Class of '09 attended this year (not to mention every reality show they watched), Gaga has also provided inspiration for budding fashionistas out there with an interplanetary sense of style, created by her own Andy Warhol-esque design collaborative, Haus of Gaga.
Gay Marriage: Besides the election and the economy, one of the biggest political stories for the Class of '09 was same-sex marriage. The struggle for equal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples was dealt a major blow in November 2008 when California passed Proposition 8, which redefined marriage in the state as a union between a man and a woman. At the same time, Massachusetts, Maine, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire legalized gay marriage.
So, there you have it, Class of '09, a little time capsule to remember this year by. Go ahead and stick your "Star Trek" movie stub in there, alongside a Susan Boyle YouTube clip, that Sarah Palin Halloween mask and your "Gossip Girl" poster.
"Twilight" fans: Want to go to Twi-Con? You can, if you win MTV News' "Class of '09 Shout-Out Search." To enter, graduating seniors must submit a video to Your.MTV.com shouting out to the Class of '09. Tell us about your hopes and dreams, why the class of '09 is great or just say, "Best of luck!" We'll select the most fun, interesting and original video — and the winner will be announced by MTV News' own Larry Carroll on June 28, when he speaks at Forks High School in Washington. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, June 26, so hurry!