For people who believe in the inevitability of the progress of civilization, the last two to three years have been a tanker truck full of cold water. Global trends toward narrow-minded, border closing, mind numbing bigotry have been magnified here at home, with the President of the United States playing to fear and hatred, sowing division, denying science, and every day lying and feeding his basest most narcissistic impulses, caring about little other than himself and occasionally his family. Aside from the possibilities raised by in the mid-term election, there hasn’t been much cause for optimism.
Saturday there was another side to the story. Our grandson graduated from Arlington High School. A class of more than three hundred and their speakers were a testament to diversity, academic excellence, embrace of science, the arts, global language proficiency, community service and all the solid values – kindness, compassion, curiosity, commitment – so missing on the national scene. Ninety-five percent are going on colleges and universities. These young people are a gift to our older generation, a kind of promise that they and other well educated new graduates around the country will be able to begin the great work of restoration of democracy and enlightenment.
I’m sure that many of you may have felt the same at graduations you attended or while listening to commencement speakers. I couldn’t help at this moment of joy, reflecting on the students of Marjory Douglas, those graduating and the lives lost. I also thought about Juliana v. the United States, a case brought by a group of students from around the country against the federal government alleging violation of their rights to life, liberty and property by failing to protect our environment and defend public resources. Will these young people succeed in doing what their parents and grandparents did not?
Faculty speaker Timothy Marten, chosen for his role by the class, had a message that applied equally to parents and grandparents as to the students. Urging graduates to tackle new experiences head-on despite their anxieties and self-doubt, he said, “The only way to find yourself on the other side of the (daunting) task is to do it.” It’s a lesson about which we all need to be reminded as we look forward to the 2020 election and the hard work needed to write a new and improved chapter of this nation’s history. I hope these and other young people register, organize and vote.