You are in a unique position of leadership to influence today’s youth to achieve a better tomorrow for America and the world. I am writing to enlist your help in educating young people to understand the survival challenges that face humanity in the 21st century.
Education is driven by values. Young people must learn to live with reverence for life, as did Albert Schweitzer, and to support equitable and nonviolent solutions to social problems, as did Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Young people must be imbued with compassion, commitment and courage. They must learn to use their imaginations to find creative and cooperative solutions to the great issues of our time. And they must find joy in the process and take time to celebrate the miracle of living on the only planet we know of in the universe that supports life.
Since the onset of the Nuclear Age our powerful technologies, developed by human ingenuity, have put our societies and humanity itself at grave risk.
Albert Einstein observed, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” We need all elements of society, and especially college and university students who are inheriting our world and the responsibility for its stewardship, to take steps to avert such catastrophe.
Today, we are confronted not only by the ongoing peril of nuclear devastation, but also by the threats posed by climate change, pollution of the oceans and atmosphere, poverty, hunger, homelessness, war and other forms of violence, often senseless violence. All of these threats are caused by human behavior and are subject to human solutions.
Some young people are largely ignorant of these threats. Others are apathetic. Still others are despairing and alienated. In this sense, they reflect the larger society.
Young people need to be better educated on the critical survival issues that confront humanity. They need to realize that, with social action, change is possible and there is hope for a more decent future. With action comes hope, and with hope comes action. It is a reinforcing cycle of change.
We cannot wait for young people to become the leaders of tomorrow. They must step up and fill the leadership vacuum that currently exists in solving the urgent threats of our time. This will require education in the humanities, focused training for putting positive values into practice, and for developing the skills needed to influence the course of events in our interconnected world.
They must come to understand that all great global threats can only be solved globally. No single country, no matter how powerful, can diffuse these threats acting alone. Thus, young people must form bonds across borders.
Today’s young people have far worthier challenges than to become cogs in corporate machines. They have the opportunity and the choice to change the world to make it more just and peaceful, a world in which all people can live with dignity and recognition of the basic human rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This must be complemented with a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities.
Your leadership as a college or university president can influence today’s students to walk the path toward a far more decent tomorrow. I urge you to add this to your list of responsibilities and to make your college or university a part of the solution to humanity’s most challenging problems.
One way to begin the process would be to institute a required class for all students on “Global Survival 101,” which would cover all the great issues that confront humanity in the 21st century. It would raise the following questions: What are the great threats that currently confront humanity? What can be done about them? How will each student make a difference in creating a better tomorrow?
We also have a Peace Leadership Program at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which provides peace leadership trainings. A curriculum has been developed and tested at the University of San Diego and other college campuses. You can find out more about this program at www.wagingpeace.org.
If there are ways in which you are already addressing the issues I’ve raised in this letter or plan to do so going forward, I would be very happy to know of such initiatives.
Thank you for caring.