Here is a letter that challenges you to write down your best ideas, and to adventure forth in pursuit of better tomorrows.
“Our answer is the world's hope; it is to rely on youth. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. It cannot be moved by those who cling to a present which is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger which comes with even the most peaceful progress. This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease.” – Robert F. Kennedy, “Day of Affirmation” speech, University of Cape Town, 1966.
Since Kennedy delivered this speech much has improved around the world. Experts from Stephen Pinker to Matt Ridley will tell you that poverty is declining, famine is subsiding, and those that were oppressed are finally thriving. They have stats and figures to back them up, too. Their books and speeches make it seem as though we’ve been too hard on ourselves, that we deserve a pat on the back. Too many people, they say, are pessimistic. They say things really are better.
I’m not so ready to adopt that view or pat any backs. I think we can do better. I think we have to do better. I think we still have a long way to go.
Has progress been made? Yes. Have we fully used the tools at our disposal? No.
Globally, Pinker and Ridley show we are more connected, wealthy, and educated than ever before. How, then, have we not made so many more improvements? Making today better than yesterday is a victory, yes. But, we ought to focus instead on how much better we are capable of improving today and tomorrow and whether or not we match that potential. Progress alone is not enough when we are capable of so much more.
I agree that we should be optimistic. Optimism is contagious and a can-do attitude is necessary to our ability to change the world. Our optimism, though, should not come from what we have done but, instead, from our potential to do so much more.
I’m asking us all to be insatiable optimists. I want us to challenge every gain and ask, “How could we have done more?” I want us to celebrate victories in one community but then quickly analyze why those gains haven’t been achieved elsewhere. I want us to refute any argument that we’ve done good enough and to always look for a way to raise more boats and train more sailors.
We must channel our imagination, demonstrate our courage, and possess an unquenchable appetite for adventure.
Pause here, reader, and imagine one thing that would make your community more vibrant, inclusive, cohesive, or collaborative.
Write this idea down.
Next, show us your courage, and start talking to others about this bright future. Gather supporters and embark on an adventure to make tomorrow a better place for more people. Never tire. Never be satisfied.
I imagined an Oregon where every kid could explore our state’s natural wonders. It’s a future in which access to the outdoors is regarded as a birthright. In this world, every kid is an adventurer that knows the diverse faces and places that make Oregon home to all.
I refused to be timid and launched a nonprofit. After conversations with community leaders across the state and having convinced my roommate and brother to help me out, Passport Oregon became an official 501c3 with a simple mission – make exploration of all a reality for all. Ever since, we have been taking young explorers on adventures around the state.
But, we’re not done. And we won’t be until the Nature Gap doesn’t exist. Yes, we are glad that we’ve broadened horizons and reduced the number of hours kids spend in front of screens. Each trip is a win, but I know we can do better.
Our world needs your imagination, courage, and insatiable optimism. Think of a better future and make it happen. Let's change the world.