When my generation was in its twenties it was concerned with things like birth control, the Vietnam War, and equal rights. We were headed up by the likes of Gloria Steinem, Abbie Hoffman, and Bill Baird. We also had Bill Gates, Jim Henson, and George Lucas. These people, and many more like them, contributed greatly to the quality of life we enjoy today. You might find Abbie Hoffman as a strange choice for the list as he was regularly identified at a villain at the time. He was extremely outspoken against “the establishment” of the day. But some years later he joined “the establishment” as a part of the Wall Street financiers.
It’s not difficult to find out what we stood for. My generation was known for its protest songs, student sit-ins and strikes, burning the bra, and fighting the war in Vietnam. I fit into that last category as I spent the entire 70s in the US Army. But that did not keep me from experiencing much of what was going on. My eldest daughter spent many an hour watching Sesame Street and getting the beginnings of a fine education from it, thank you very much Jim Henson. We watched east coast cities burning during the race riots of the 70s, and the stream of war protestors who headed to Canada to avoid the draft. I did not then, nor do I now, bear them the least bit of animosity.
For those of you who are in your 20s now this is the time to take copious notes, become of causes that mean something to you, do not shy away from political controversy, and take a stand for those things you feel passionate about. It is extremely important, however, that you keep an open mind, be flexible, be willing to alter your position, and be prepared for a long fight. You will find that most of the things you believe to be in the greatest need of changing are going to take the longest to get changed. Keep that in mind and do not quit no matter what.
I absolutely believe that among you exists a mind that will find the cure for AIDS, certain cancers, and will revolutionize prosthetic devices. Some will become President of the United States, senators, and supreme court justices. You will have Nobel Prize winners and Pulitzer Prize winners. You will win gold medals in the Olympics and championships in professional sports.
Most of you, however, will lead quiet lives and you can make some of the biggest changes of all. At your finger tips is more information you can use to your advantage than any generation prior to you has had. Use it to make your children’s lives better, you life better, and to keep yourself informed about what is going around you. Abbie Hoffman told us to challenge authority. What he meant was, when someone holds themselves up to be an authority on any subject make them prove themself, and be judicious in believing what you are told.
The best predictor of your future is the past. Look closely at the history of everything when you consider anything. People have a natural tendency to resist change so if you want to know how people are going to react to some future event, see how they responded to the same or similar events in the past, and plan accordingly.
Do not sit quietly by when something wrong is happening. Become involved, it is the only way to make a difference. Change is inevitable. Your choices are two: be a part of it or be run over by it.
Make a promise to yourself now that when you look back on your life, 30 or 40 years from now, you will be able to smile knowing you we an agent of positive change and that your generation can hold it head proudly for be at the forefront of that change.