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.
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!
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!