Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed faith in the young people of today to face the myriad challenges facing Canada and world, comparing them to the generation who came of age during the Second World War.

The comments came in a speech delivered Wednesday at Carleton University and carried live to graduates across the country whose graduation ceremonies have been affected by COVID-19.

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The world is facing an unprecedented number of challenges, including climate change, racism and the pandemic, all of which have caused levels of upheaval not seen in generations, Trudeau said.

“No student gets to choose the world into which they graduate, but if you could — and let’s be honest here — you probably wouldn’t have chosen the world of 2020,” Trudeau said, according to prepared remarks.

“The Australian bushfires linked to climate change. The horrific plane crash in Iran. The worst mass shooting in our country’s history. Horrifying scenes of police violence against Black and Indigenous people. And of course, the reason why we’re gathered here virtually and not in person — COVID-19, which has triggered the greatest health and economic crisis in generations.”

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But the youth of today have already shown their perseverance and willingness to face those challenges head-on in the same way as the so-called Greatest Generation that lived during the Second World War, Trudeau said.

“The Greatest Generation came out of the Depression to fight a world war they did not start. And in the face of unprecedented destruction, they chose to rebuild the world, by rolling up their sleeves and pulling together,” he said.

“The challenge facing the Class of 2020 is not dissimilar. The choices you will make — both big and small — in the next few years will decide the future of our country and of our world.”

Trudeau went on to cite several areas where today’s young generation has already been leading, including their early leadership on fighting climate change and injustice such as racism.

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Indeed, two graduates chosen to give short speeches of their own before Trudeau, Jordan Gray of Carleton University and Caleb Adedze of La Cité college in Ottawa, both of them Black, talked about racism in the academy and in society.

Trudeau also noted the sacrifices they have made to protect against COVID-19.

“You understand not just the value but the power of community better than most,” he added. “And that is why I trust you will be the 21st century’s greatest generation. You know what is wrong with the world and how to fix it. Your job is not only to challenge people like me, but to bring us along.”