35 years ago today, I graduated from LeConte Junior High in Hollywood, California. The ceremony was held at the Hollywood High auditorium. I got to give a speech at this event, on the topic “Imagine All the People Sharing All The World.” Here’s what I thought about the future when I was 14 years old:
“Imagine All The People Sharing All The World: Where Do We Go From Here?”
For a minute, I’d like to ask everyone here to imagine the whole world and all the people sharing it. It can be a pretty nice thought, can’t it? After all, in one junior high school, the one that we’ve been attending, there are more than sixty different countries represented. That’s a fairly healthy cross-section of humanity, and it shows that lots of people of many different national origins can not only get along but really enjoy each others’ company.
Most graduation speeches are traditionally very optimistic. However, when I imagine the people in the world in twenty-five or fifty years I find that optimism doesn’t come easy. Already we are faced with a dangerous degree of over-population, pollution, and depletion of the world’s natural resources. Dr. Erlich and others say that by the end of this century we are going to be faced with such a world famine that wars will be inevitable between those who have enough food and those who do not. So war and its attrocities are added to hunger, and that is a combination that, historically, has usually meant epidemic diseases as well. Meanwhile, we ourselves – the people of the United States – annually use up more of the planet’s irreplaceable energy sources than all the rest of the world put together. Obviously, this can’t go on forever.
That’s an awful lot of problems.
Like it or not, we are going to have to deal with them. It remains to be seen whether our generation will be up to the challenge they represent. This generation will have to avoid the danger of repeating past mistakes and handing on to the next generation all the chaos that we are threatened with – plus other varities that we haven’t yet even dreamed of. After all, in my opinion, man already belongs at the head of the list of endangered species.
At the begining, I said that graduation speeches are usually very upbeat and optimistic. They express thanks to faculty and parents for the wonderful education that we have received during out term at Le Conte. It would be nice to be able to make such a speech, but honesty has compelled me to talk instead about the grim challenges that we’re all going to have to face up to.
Are we going to be ready for them?
I hope so, and I also hope that some of the people that I have known here at Le Conte will be at the forefront of the struggle to find the solutions that we so desperately need. If the solutions arn’t found, than imagining the world and all the people in it two or thrree generations from now will be a frightening task indeed.