Dear University of Arizona Class of 2015:
The Alumni Association of our beloved U of A asked past graduates to share words of wisdom with you.
My first thought is to give forth with some lofty advice like “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Now that’s definitely something for you to consider but, due to the troubles in the world facing your generation, you’ve got some serious work to do.
Let me break it down. Back in 1960 when I got my little P.E. Degree, I took my educated self off, like a character in a fairy tale, to “make the world a better place.”
I’ve pursued such a fantasy, over the years, faithfully, mainly by pursuing social justice as a way of being, from my roles as a parent, a grandparent, a great-grand-parent, a teacher, a writer, a singer, a dancer, a thespian, a rapper, a husband, a lover, a feminist, a marcher in the streets – to name but a few… And I’m not about to give up.
But you graduates are not only going to have to continue trying to change the world, as I’ve done, you’re going to have to “Save the World.” Literally.
See, when I was at the University of Arizona I remember a prof talking about how important the rainforests were to life on the planet. He spoke of how they regulate our climate, and recycle water into our lakes and streams and rivers and oceans, how they hold droughts at bay.
Then, just the other day, I heard that “One and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second somewhere in the world.” That’s scary.
As a result of this and other tragedies involving our natural resources, the glaciers of the world are slowly dying, calving ever so wildly; the snows are melting away into the warming oceans and seas; the temperatures are rising ever so gradually; the world’s sources of water are drying drastically.
Does that just not scream “World Saving Time?” And you have to get on it right away as this is a situation wherein our precious beautiful life-giving planet appears to be on the brink of becoming home to a species, human beings, who could become extinct.
The trick is you have to rally your fellow citizens in a society riddled with racial inequalities, a society that is two-tiered to the core in the 21st Century, a century that has been dubbed as the “Knowledge Age.”
Well, it should be common knowledge that a world can’t be saved without its inhabitants working on it together, and how can that happen if we Americans can’t lay our prejudices aside and come to a place where we can empathize with the suffering some of us go through in their everyday lives. The world can only suffer if we’re cold towards each other’s cries.
So you have to be the first to make all lives matter – white lives, brown lives, black lives, red lives, yellow lives, gay lives – before you can deal with reducing humankind’s abuse of its planet.
You have to, specifically, put an end to executions of black folks in our streets as it has gone on way too long, ever since the ships arrived with their first loads of slaves.
You have to break with the old ways in order to counter the apathy that has allowed our country to embrace such heartless blatant forms of racism throughout its history and put an end to such practices permanently – for the sake of all humanity.
You will need to think in new ways, in a spirit of unbridled and unconditional love, and look at social and political issues more analytically and critically and holistically and innovatively and artistically than anyone has before.
It must be gone about in this way because the bottom line is somewhere down the line children have to be raised in an environment where it is evident that all lives matter — because only people who feel loved and wanted will care enough to want to roll up their sleeves to do the work necessary to protect the precious life-giving gifts our planet provides.
And put simply, if something isn’t done immediately our species likely won’t survive. There isn’t room for hesitancy or procrastination when the glaciers are slowly dying; when the blizzards blow at will; when the world’s temperatures are on the rise; when the water supplies are becoming more dry.
Bear Down, Arizona.
Bear Down, Red and Blue.
Bear Down, Arizona.
The Planet Earth calls out to you.
Its care is up to you.