Dear class of 2010
morning of June 7, 1968 I was a confused kid. I was seventeen,
and the day before I had stood with my graduating class at our commencement
ceremony at the Seattle Opera House after narrowly achieving graduation with a
2.3 grade average. Life at Sammamish High School had been an academic and social
battle for me so I was very happy and relieved in the moment.
We had all
then headed off on a tour boat across the Puget Sound to Blake Island for our
senior class all-night party. We were wild with freedom and bolstered by a
strong sense of oneness and camaraderie not felt before or after. We had danced
all night to a live rock band, eaten barbequed salmon, rolled in the
grass, smoked and
drank, roared with laughter, hugged and kissed and bragged about the outrageous
fun the summer and ever-after would hold.
Many were leaving for college in the fall, and we all felt a rare closeness
as we crossed the water back to Seattle.
morning light our radios were tuned to KJR (the only rock station then) when the
music was interrupted by the seriously stunned and heavy voice of the DJ. He
said that Robert Kennedy, US attorney General, civil rights champion and
brother of the late president John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in L.A.
while we had been partying. He was
the third of our beloved young national heroes bent on change to be silenced in
our short lives.
left our lungs. Everyone was mortally shocked. We were all still assimilating
the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in April of that same year, and JFK
himself had been shot when we were in 8th grade. The war in Vietnam raged and
escalated. Despite our desperately beautiful young dreams, many of the boys on
that very boat would be drafted before the summer was over, and we knew many
wouldn't come home. As we chugged along, all fell silent; wide eyes looking into
each other with deep, ominous revelation. There was a big, terrifying world out
there screaming, full of tragedy, injustice, rage and hatred. We had graduated
from high school and thrown our jubilation up to the starry June sky, but the
next morning the world was still badly broken. Though they had tried, our
parents hadn't been able to fix it. Now it was our turn. It was very confusing.
moment none of us had thought of graduation as anything other than the joyful
shout of " Mission Accomplished! " Hats in the air!
Tears of happiness....Freedom!
Suddenly, in that moment, it was as if a yoke had been lowered onto our
young shoulders. " Fix the world
" it seemed to say to us, " It's up to you now. Turn back the doomsday
clock, heal the environment, kill hatred between people, make there be enough
food, medical care, education and opportunity for everybody! End war...somehow. Step into the worn
and battered shoes our parents walked in. Change everything. Don't screw it up,
youngster...congratulations, the world is yours. Now get to work."
whimpered. Some guys moaned. Everybody grabbed each other and held tight in
silence as dawn came up around the Space Needle and a boatload of kids floated
toward adulthood on a Seattle pier.
I tell you
this story because I know some of you are now feeling something akin to what we felt that morning so long ago,
when another one of our bright dreams was dashed in the face of cruel
reality. Maybe some of you feel a
little overwhelmed at thoughts of your place in the future. Maybe you feel
cynical about whether it's even worth your energy to try and make change in this
narcissistic, dysfunctional world. Some might be thinking, "What's left
for my generation? Joblessness,
helplessness and a dying planet!
Endless war threatening to extinguish all hope of a bright future. Is it possible these days to break free
of the vice-like grip of major corporations bent on rape and plunder, while
politicians and pundits rave and blunder on...and everything
is analyzed, re-analyzed and dissected to no effect on the 24 hour news cycle? "
Let me tell
nothing less than life renewing itself. In you is a brand new chance; a chance
to break away from the repetitive old patterns that bind humanity. You are the
powerful rebirth of energy, idealism and brainpower. There never has been a generation
like you. You are global AND local. You are brilliant AND simple. You are
strong and toned intellectually, while having the ability to laugh at
yourselves AND everyone else! You Rock (though you would say that in a much
more creative way) and you have already gone where previous generations haven't.
They never could. You are the freshlit torch by which all standing behind your
shoulder can see. Your parents' generation and all those before them sought the
truth as they saw it, just as you will seek it now with your clear eyes, strong
will and a clean slate.
has always been and will always be a work in progress and the problems you
inherit are dense and tangled, but don't let cynicism and fear paralyze you or
keep you from action. It is up to every generation to put its mark on the skin
of society. Let yours be a beautiful,
colorful, healing and honest mark. An aggressive mark! Try new things. Try everything. Try your best, and if
that doesn't work, go at it from another, different best angle and try again.
Talk to people. Try to understand them. Help them to understand you. Keep at it and find a way to work
together so a new bridge can be built to another future yet undreamed of by anyone! Learn from history, but make it up as
you go along. Break rules and make better ones! Dare to believe in Love...it could happen in your time, and
if you can conceive of Peace, and are willing to work for it, then that is possible
too. Your ideas and dreams are wonderful, and they are your tools for changing
the world, so be uncompromising about them. This is your wave
to ride, so ride it all the way up the beach and if you fall and are tossed and
turned underwater, swim with all your might to the surface, grab a deep
breath, and jump on again.
from one who scraped by with a 2.3 and has gone on to a deeply interesting and
exciting life; anything is possible. Aim high! Listen to your inner voice and don't take no for an
answer. Above all...be yourself. Do these things and the world WILL be a
better place...one soul at a time.
I wish each
and every one of you my congratulations on getting here. Now go out and get 'em. The whole
amazing world is waiting!