Having received a college degree, you are among the 6.7 percent of the world’s most educated elite. If your education has been a good one, you are likely to have more questions than answers. If your education has been mediocre, you are likely to think you have more answers than questions.
Did you have a chance in college to ponder these questions: What does it mean to be human? Why are we here on Earth? What are the greatest goals one can pursue in life? What are the keys to a happy and fulfilled life? If you didn’t, it’s not too late.
You may have taken many introductory courses during your college years, but was there a course on Global Survival 101? If not, you may not be prepared to make a difference in ending the great dangers to humanity in the 21st century.
Do you know how many nuclear weapons there are in the world? Do you know which countries possess them? Do you know what nuclear weapons do to cities? Do you know whether these weapons are legal or illegal under international law? Do you know whether they could end civilization and the human species?
Do you know about the Nuremberg Principles, those that were derived from the tribunals at Nuremberg that held the Nazi leaders to account after World War II? Do you know that these principles apply not just to Nazi leaders, but to all leaders who commit heinous crimes under international law? Do you know what those crimes are?
Have you studied the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Do you know to whom these rights apply? Do you know that these rights encompass economic and social rights as well as political and civil rights?
Do you know that we all live on a single fragile planet and that we humans are the caretakers and stewards of this planet, not only for ourselves, but for future generations yet unborn?
Do you realize that you are about to enter a world of vast inequities, as measured in money, health and happiness? Do you understand that throughout the world there are more than a billion people who are malnourished and go to bed hungry every night? Can you comprehend that in our world there are still 25,000 children who die daily of starvation and preventable diseases?
Does your education lead you to believe that money will buy happiness? It may buy fancy material things, and even status, but it is unlikely that it will buy happiness or fulfillment in life. Caring for others and living with compassion, commitment and courage offers a far surer path to a fulfilled and happy life.
Graduating from college is a commencement, not an ending. It is a commencement into responsibility for one’s society and one’s world. Exercising this responsibility is a daily task, a necessary and never-ending task. It is a task that will require further education, outside the college classroom, but inside the multiversity of life.
The world needs to change. We cannot continue to teeter on the precipice of nuclear and ecological disasters. We cannot continue to exist divided into those who live in abundance and those who live in scarcity. We cannot allow the greed of the few to overwhelm the need of the many. We cannot continue to exploit the planet’s finite resources, in effect, stealing from the future. We cannot continue to draw lines on the planet and separate ourselves into warring factions.
For the world to change, new peace leaders and change makers will be needed. The first and most important questions you must ask yourself in your new role as graduates are these: Will I be one of the peace leaders and change makers, devoting myself to building a better world? Or, will I choose to be detached and complacent in the face of the 21st century’s social, economic, political and military threats to humanity?
As the little prince, in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s book by that name, stated so clearly, “It’s a matter of discipline…. When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” Look around. Our beautiful planet needs a lot of tending.