Our power to shape society

Collectively, human beings can come together to build a society in which peace and justice prevail.

Chelsey Perkins

I have been thinking a lot about the future lately. This is partly because I am graduating in less than two weeks and partly because, frankly, there is a lot of serious stuff going down in this world every day that cannot, and should not, be ignored.

So often it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the tasks at hand, to feel depressed and helpless about whichever issue or issues you feel the strongest.

Despite this, I believe that we can and will triumph over the world’s ills, and that we have the capacity as human beings to build a society in which we respect our planet and not only peace but also justice prevail.

I believe that in the course of our lifetimes, we will see a drastic social and economic shift in this country. It will be necessary to transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to an alternative-fuel based economy, and it may be just as dramatic as our transition into the industrial age was.

We will need to change parts of our culture, too. No longer will wasteful consumerism and unsustainable practices be a viable option, not that they ever really were. Sunday’s May Day parade in south Minneapolis addressed this through the theme of the event, “A New Bridge: Infrastructure for the Future Beings.” Organizers ask us all a question that I think is worth pondering: “Are we building toward depletion and collapse as consumers and conquerors, or are we building a path to sustainable, reciprocal harmony with the rest of the earth?”

Despite my youth, I feel as though I have a strong, clear vision of what I want to see happen in this world, whether I ever personally experience these things or if only future generations do. I am sure many of the young people on this campus also have a vision of what they would like to see. These visions are powerful. Collectively, we have the power to make these changes happen and to build that path.

Today, I am challenging this community to engage in the changes you wish to see. I am challenging everyone to lift themselves up from despair and helplessness to embrace love, confidence and the knowledge that a difference can be made. If we spend our lives allowing the status quo to remain comfortable and unchallenged, we will never know what could have been. Educator Paulo Freire said it best: “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”

As so many of us look forward to post-University life, we see many challenges ahead. The economy’s in the toilet, we’re engaged in a seemingly endless war, the job market is, for the most part, mediocre at best, and the specter of debt looms in the near future. All of this greets us at the start of our truly adult lives.

What should keep us all marching forth, however, is knowing that our voices are not merely one amongst a million, but together they can make real, tangible transformations in our communities for the benefit of society as a whole.

Good luck to everyone who will finally get that expensive piece of paper this spring.

And remember, we shall overcome.

Chelsey Perkins welcomes comments at your [email protected]