Is It That Bad? Damn right.
“The quantity and quality of the challenges facing the United States and the world are unprecedented in my experience.” — Richard Haass
The season of college commencement speeches — high-minded leaders extolling age-old wisdom — is upon us.
Dance like no one’s watching! Sing like no one’s listening! Love like you’ve never been hurt!
The world is on fire, dear graduates, and we need you to walk through it. We need you to be committed and great.
Our society is cannibalizing itself. Our institutions — public and private sectors, around the world — are decrepit and failing. The future looks bleak.
But Haass makes an important point later in his speech: “one of the few things I have learned in the more than four decades … is that little is inevitable. People and ideas matter. People and ideas are what determine history.”
And therein lies the central tension:
We are not in trouble because the world is dangerous and complex — the world has always been that way.
We are in trouble if we, individually and collectively, shrink from the challenges of that dangerous, complex world.
If we don’t win the battle for our better angels.
So, dear graduates, here is a stiff shooter of truth before you leave the nest:
You need to do more, do it better, and do it now.
We’re counting on you.