Dear class of 2010
Dear class of 2010,
On the 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.
In the 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.
The air 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.
Until that 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."
Some girls 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 you something.
You are 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.
The world 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.
Enjoy the ride!
Take it 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!