Many of you soon-to-be college graduates are determined to make the world a better place. Some of you are choosing careers in public service or joining nonprofits or volunteering in your communities.
But many of you are cynical about politics. You see the system as inherently corrupt. You doubt real progress is possible.
Let me remind you: Cynicism is a self-fulfilling prophesy. You have no chance if you assume you have no chance.
“But it was different when you graduated,” you say. “The sixties were a time of social progress.”
You don’t know your history.
When I graduated in 1968, the Vietnam War was raging. Over half a million American troops were already there. I didn’t know if I’d be drafted. A member of my class who spoke at commencement said he was heading to Canada and urged us to join him.
Two months before, Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. America’s cities were burning. Bobby Kennedy had just been gunned down.
George (“segregation forever”) Wallace was on his way to garnering 10 million votes and carrying five southern states. Richard Nixon was well on his way to becoming president.
It all seemed pretty hopeless. I assumed America was going to hell.
And yet, reforms did occur. America changed. The changes didn’t come easily. Every positive step was met with determined resistance. But we became better and stronger because we were determined to change…