It’s graduation season across America, and because of it, much of my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook public feeds are filled with clips from commencement speeches. And for most of those clips, the message intends to inspire, and goes along the lines of “you are the generation of change and progress...You are the group that will change the world,” so on and so forth.
On top of this, the majority of people articulating such messages are those in positions of power, those currently with the change to create change, etc. Now, when looking at the dynamic between the message and the orator that exists in almost any collegiate speech, alongside the current climate of political stagnation and division, I find myself sensing an irony to what are supposed to act as moments of enlightenment.
The best analogy to describe this irony is when someone passes on their chore to their younger sibling. They have the assumed authority because of their age and experience, so therefore they can try and dictate what those “below” them have to do.
When a political or social figure goes and speaks about how the next generation is the generation of change, they are really being lazy; passing on the responsibility of progress to those “below” them, and ignoring the obligations that they have to the social progress they address. When I hear these figures go up on stage and excite the crowd with a sense of power and responsibility, I can’t help but ask “why aren’t they doing anything about the issues they speak of? Why do they not practice what they preach?”
We have come to a defining moment in both U.S. and world history where we are in dire need of action. Whether on the subject climate change, gun violence, racism, or intolerance, I am sick of being told that I am the one who is responsible for moving our nation forward, when I am still sitting behind a desk in my high school classroom.
To those who are already in positions of power, those who could create change, who are giving these speeches of hope, you need to start thinking about the world you will leave behind to us. Stop trying to throw the consequences of your laziness on the next generation, but take responsibility and initiative. Find a way to compromise, discuss, and progress us into a future of sustainability and cooperation.
For all of those who this message addresses, remember that your actions, whether of failure or success, today will be taught in the history books of tomorrow, and if you fail to address the crises of this moment, your legacy will be frowned upon by your posterity...