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The Present

A 60 Second Commencement Address

This is a tremendous opportunity for you, a young person, to be altruistic because desperate people are scared.

We live in very interesting times and as a young person you are going into a very turbulent and fragile economy that is going to get better. It’s going to take a while. When you’re going into an employment environment that looks pretty scary, it is easy to lose your moral compass, your decency, your sense of civility and your sense of community.

Things in traffic make you mad. People are getting a little desperate. They might not show their best elements to you. You must never lower yourself to being a person you don’t like. In the worst of times the best among us never lose their moral compass and that is how they emerge relatively unscathed.

This is a tremendous opportunity for you, a young person, to be heroic, to be morally upstanding, to have a great civic backbone and a great civic true north, to be helpful, almost Boy Scout-like, presidential, to be altruistic because desperate people are scared.

That is the main ingredient which makes them do what they do. Don’t let this fear sidetrack you, blind you and minimize your potential. And now more than ever is the time to extol these great qualities which you have. Now it’s time to magnify them, personify them and inspire others with them and there has never been a time where they are needed more than right now. 

60 Second Reads is recorded in Big Think’s studio. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

It’s plain to see that I’m an optimist, sometimes more than is socially comfortable. The ease with which I dismiss the disastrous economic decline above serves as one example of that. I wrote that the recession will benefit our political system, and, before I cut this line, as having “rewarded our company for methodical execution and ruthless efficiency by removing competitors from the landscape.” I make no mention of the disastrous effects on millions of people, and the great uncertainty that grips any well-briefed mind, because it truly doesn’t stand in the foreground of my mind (despite suffering personal loss of wealth). Our species is running towards a precipice with looming dangers like economic decline, political unrest, climate crisis, and more threatening to grip us as we jump off the edge, but my optimism is stronger now than ever before. On the other side of that looming gap are extraordinary breakthroughs in healthcare, communications technology, access to space, human productivity, artistic creation and literally hundreds of fields. With the right execution and a little bit of luck we’ll all live to see these breakthroughs — and members of my generation will live to see dramatically lengthened life-spans, exploration and colonization of space, and more opportunity than ever to work for passion instead of simply working for pay. Instead of taking this space to regale you with the many personal and focused changes I intend to make in 2009, let me rather encourage you to spend time this year thinking, as I’m going to, more about what we can do in 2009 to positively affect the future our culture will face in 2020, 2050, 3000 and beyond.

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False coloring is used in this image to reveal greater detail. The image here depicts mystery martian morphology.