My sister graduated from Augustana College last weekend. With so many amazing people graduating, it’s impossible not to feel optimistic.
Any newly graduated readers doubtlessly picked up the subtext in that previous statement. But for anybody else, I’ll make it explicit: Help. You’re our last, best hope.
As you have noticed, the world has some problems. We might have caused some of them. And we don’t know how to fix them. So good luck. This might sound unfair—but under the circumstances, I think it’s pretty reasonable.
I’ll put it this way. Do you have any idea how many lead paint chips the previous generations consumed? Swimming pools full of Baby Boomers had DDT sprayed on them. And it was the Greatest Generation that thought this was a good idea. We’ve since figured out, for example, that if a mercury thermometer breaks, the broken glass is not a free straw. These basic public health innovations may seem like no-brainers—but when you consider the quantity of neurotoxins doutlessly consumed in childhood by the people who came up with them, give credit where it’s due. Some of us are still figuring out that there might be a better approach to students struggling in school than more nuns and thicker rulers. I’m not saying you all had a childhood totally free from what, in retrospect, is obvious exposure to major toxins. I’m just saying that you’re the best we’ve done so far. (Pictured above: Me, attempting to smile and look at a camera. And failing. Probably because my car seat was made out of carcinogens. Angie nailed it.)
It took us until 1964 to really grok that smoking is bad for you. And we’re still working out the implications of second-hand smoke. And as obvious as all this is, it hasn’t been easy. Every time somebody suggested that maybe it would be nice not to have our cities visibly covered in smog, Team Asthma piped up with, “What about the nice sunsets?” We only recently decided that maybe we should try to teach our children to be a bit less racist, a bit less sexist than we are. We’ve had a concerted effort to stop poisoning our children’s bodies and minds—and you’re the payoff. Now we need your help.
This might seem like a lot of pressure—but I’m really only asking you to do a bit better than Generation Paint Chip. This is an easy bar. You just need to be awake enough not to trip over it. All I’m asking is that when you see the opportunity to put everybody who came before you to shame, take it.
Anyway, Congratulations. I’m looking forward to you solving all my problems. Let me know how I and any of the other Olds can help.