Commencement Address for our Country as we Graduate from 2006 into 2007. Our country (and the world) seems to have a shortage of great men right now. Who are the Washingtons, Lincolns, Jeffersons, Churchills, or Martin Luther Kings of today? Are there 3 great men or women alive today who will have a lasting effect on future generations? If so, please write and tell me who they are. If not, please become one of them.
For a time in history that seems short of great figures, we sure seem to spend a lot of time talking about marginal people.
We also use a great deal of our personal bandwidth and energy fretting over problems much larger than ourelves.
Resolution- Unless you are going to actively participate in the solution, try not to get too wound up about things that have a limited effect on your life or the lives of those around you. One topic we seemed to spend a lot of water-cooler time with this year was Illegal Immigration. If you spend much time worrying about the problem of illegal immigration, stop to consider: If you are reading this, your quality of life is likely better than 90% of the people who share the planet with you. Perhaps even 95%.
Think about that. Your quality of life is in the top 5th-10th percentile of every person who has ever lived. Most of the billions of people on the planet would trade places with you in a second. So, if our country were free from Illegal Immigration, how much would your life improve? Would you have even more money? Would our schools and healthcare systems be problem-free?
Illegal immigration only shines the light on problems we weren't handling too well anyway.
The point is: Nobody is denying that we have challenges in many areas. You can work yourself into a tizzy at cocktail parties, or at your PC, creating and forwarding e-mails decrying Global Warming, Illegal immigration, the War in Iraq, GWB, Hillary Clinton, Arab-Israeli conflict, liberal bias, Fox News, et al. Or, you can go down to the beach and pick up trash. Which has a greater impact on your life, and the lives of the people around you?
Democrat doesn't automatically mean liberal, any more than Republican automatically means "Religious Right." Try not to get confused in this respect.
Trust our Democracy, it works. It may not always arrive at the result that you want, but it wouldn't be much of a democracy if it did. If it doesn't arrive at the result you want, don't blame the system, or the people who voted differently than you. It doesn't mean half the country is wrong, or dumb. (Always remember, in an election of any size there are almost certainly people who chose differently than you who are also smarter and more well informed than yourself.)
Have faith in the people.
For perspective, it may be helpful to consider that our country is in more or less the same state of maturity and development as the Internet is in its own realm. Both have made positive contributions to the greater good, and both have also stumbled along the way. Each has a bright future.
We erred badly a few times this year, including in our response to the aftermath of Katrina, as well as our prosecution of the war in Iraq. But it's the Katrina response that should make us feel ashamed.
In Iraq, we made mistakes while trying to do good. We'll make similar mistakes in the future, but the good we do will far outweigh the bad, over time. (Check the scorecard, it's not even close.)
What we did, or more accurately didn't do, in the Katrina/Rita aftermath was terrible.
But there are no surprises here. Much of what the Federal Govt does, under either party, is mediocre at best. And generally, whatever the Federal Government does, it should do less of it. But as individuals, we can't make much foreign policy, build interstate freeway systems, or smoke out Osama Bin Laden. But we can clean the park, or paint over some graffiti, or mentor a kid. Even run for local office.
So this year, let's resolve to spend a little less time focused on GW Bush, Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice and that group. It's a little bit like talking about Brittany, Paris, Brad and Jen anyway, with about the same result.
Not too long ago, all politics was local politics. We concerned ourselves more with what was happening with our City Council and local representatives than whether the White House Chief of Staff was fueding with the Secretary of State.
Some future Senator or even President may be running for a local assembly or state senate office next year. The more attention we pay to these people now, the greater the likelihood that we will send quality people to Washington in the future.
So as we go forward together into 2007, let's remember how fortunate we are to be alive at this moment in time, and in this place. And if you still need convincing, sometime in 2007 pull up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Read them, and reflect on what some of the great men of the past created, and see how timeless the documents really are.
We still run a country of 300 million people with a user manual of less than 10 pages.