In a virtual address to school leavers, the Prime Minister said their generation – which he acknowledged have had to “grow up” faster during the pandemic – will be “vital” to the national effort to rebuild the country.
He urged them to jump on every opportunity that comes their way and “rugby tackle” it to the floor, as he predicted that they would become one of the most “influential generations in the peacetime history of our nation”.
Mr Johnson said: “It was your education that was disrupted, your lives that were disrupted. And now, as many of you are missing out once again on parties and festivals, presentations, perhaps even long-planned holidays, I want you to know that your efforts have been worth it.
“Because of you, because of your sacrifice, we’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
“And that’s not something many generations will be able to say about their final weeks of school. Not your elder siblings, certainly not your parents.”
In a virtual 'People's PMQ's' later on, Mr Johnson said he wanted to see schools and universities reopen this autumn, provided there is proper guidance.
To the school leavers, the Prime Minister added: “Your generation, that came of age and perhaps had to grow up a bit faster during this pandemic, your generation are going to be so so vital to that national effort to rebuild because we’re going to need bright, brilliant young people like you.
“And that strength of character, the qualities that you forged during the lockdown – empathy, resilience, self-discipline, patience – those are qualities we’re going to need now as we make our society fairer, make our air cleaner, stop our planet getting warmer.
He added: “Your generation has come of age facing a challenge like no other generation before you.
“And just as previous generations have had their own missions: the wartime generation that rebuilt Britain in the 1950s, those who fought for greater rights and equality in the 1960s and 70s. Your mission will be to make your way in the world, as we build back a better, fairer Britain.
“I know this year hasn’t ended the way you wanted it to. I know you’ll never get back the past few months or enjoy the experiences that you hoped to, but I promise you it has been worth it.”