This is the time of the year to give advice to young people. We have all watched many of our favorite celebrities/innovators/speakers give commencement speeches to help guide our young people as they reach milestones in their lives. In this week's #TBT post, Nate Eklund gives some similar advice in the form of a letter. Even though it was from October 2012, the message still resonates today.
This is an open letter to all young people anywhere.
Here’s the deal: if you’re up to it, it would be really great if you’d turn out way more awesome than the bulk of the “adult world” you see around you. Sure, there are a lot of really great adults in the world. In fact, I hope that there are a lot of really great adults in your world. So I’m not talking about any specific adults. I’m talking about the Adult World (AW) that you see around you in the news or on tv. The AW that runs political campaigns or debates about your education or makes movies for you. That world.
You see, the AW as a whole is kind of awful at times. The AW can be bigoted, noisy, grumpy, immature, close-minded, recalcitrant, condescending, and sometimes just mean. The world needs you to someday take over the AW and do way better than this. And in many regards, it won’t be that difficult for you.
I hope you’ve been paying attention to politics lately. If you haven’t been, you need to tune in. It’s important. It’s critical that you understand the world around you, the world you’ll someday run. I hope that as you watch the political arena you see people you’d like to emulate and you hear about issues that you think are important to you on a personal note. I hope you run for office one day. You’ll be good at it.
But in the midst of watching the AW select its leaders, vote on amendments to constitutions, and pass laws I hope you’re both inspired by how a civil democracy can work and horrified at how poor the behavior of the AW can be. We do a really bad job of listening. We question everything (as we should) but then fail to change our minds when reason, research, logic, and decency should sway us. We believe so firmly in our own opinions that we fail to authentically explore the opinions of others. We dress up the mistakes of yesterday into poorly constructed arguments of today. We lash out personally when we’re hurt by the policy positions of others and we do everything we can to discredit the values of others by militantly screaming our own. Yuck. Seriously. The AW at its worst is embarrassing if not shameful.
But I know you. I know how cool you can be. You’re funny, clever, empathetic, wise beyond your years, and all-together interesting. Don’t get me wrong. I know that you, just like the AW, can be close-minded, bigoted, angry, and mean. Let’s not lie. We’ve all seen it. But as a whole, you’re better than the AW. You probably see somewhere in your school some cute poster that says something like, “You are our future.” It’s true. Someday the AW will be yours. But I worry. I worry that when you read that you are “our future” that you see yourself stepping into the roles and behaviors that already exist as if you’re going to be cast in a drama that is already written. That saddens me.
Maybe that poster should say, “You are your future.” Because if you take over “our” future, you’re doomed to the same irrational and sad AW you might see around you now. Like I said before, I hope you have scores of individual adults around you who serve as fantastic role models. I hope you have cast an image of yourself in the mold of a respected adult in your life. You need that. I just don’t want you thinking that the AW is similarly cast in stone. Take over the AW in due time. And make it something way cooler than what we’ve got going now. I look forward to it. We need it.
Your hopeful friend,
P.S. If you’re old enough to vote in a few weeks, do. It’s important. And makes sure when you vote, you’re voting because you’ve been paying attention and you know what you stand for. If you only listen to the AW’s advice on who to vote for, that could be a hot mess.