“Yearning for the seemingly impossible is the path to human progress.”
– Bryant H. McGill
I’m hearing a lot of discouragement lately, particularly about how we’re not living up to our potential as a culture. We want our country to be a safe place filled with fairness and opportunities to prosper, while the news is filled with stories of danger and inequality.
I hear the cries: We’re supposed to be a culture of freedom, and equal rights, and opportunity. We’re supposed to be able to speak our minds, to debate big ideas, to elect our government without interference or corruption.
Every day, I see people giving up. They throw up their hands and say: It’s no use. I have no agency in this situation. We’re all going to hell in a handbasket.
But wait …
Free speech is an ideal, and we haven’t fully achieved it yet. Equality is an ideal. “The shining city on the hill” is an ideal. Comfort, and safety, and living in community with others are all ideals we aspire to, and it’s frustrating when we collectively fall short. But despair is not the answer.
We act as though we’ve attained those ideals, and now are backsliding, but that was never the case. The “founding fathers” created a list of aspirational freedoms to guide themselves and future generations toward (what was then thought to be) an ideal society. We’ve changed and amended those goals over time, but the fact remains: they are goals. We’re not there yet, and perhaps we never will be, but we must be guided by principles that are instructive toward building the best community possible.
And to those who complain about “kids these days” – you must not know the same kids that I do. My students at Western Michigan University are some of the most optimistic, ambitious, and determined young people you would ever want to meet, and they are going to accomplish great things. They care, and they’re not giving up anytime soon.
I think they’re going to succeed where previous generations have failed, and I can’t wait for the future they’re going to build.