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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A letter to the class of 2010

< my dear graduating friends,

Every single one of you is uniquely capable of changing the world; do not ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You will graduate with lofty goals, with images of a better world only possible with your help. And let me tell you that the world needs your help.

Along the way you will likely meet people who tell you to change your goals. They may say you need to be more realistic. Misinterpreting your strong idealism as naïveté, they may bring out the phrase: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” There is wisdom in this aphorism, but more often than not, it is not this wisdom with which the speakers are in touch. Rather, they mean to tell you that by striving for a higher ideal you will inevitably create a set of unintended consequences that do more harm than good. Better to not try at all, because then you can guarantee you won’t fail, you can guarantee no harm. Never listen to cynics or so-called “realists.” The reality you want to create is possible if you are creative and pragmatic enough to make it so.

And that brings me to the wisdom of that saying. Like many sayings, it is overly simplistic and used more often contrary to its real intention than with its wisdom in mind. The truth is, blind idealism detached from reality can create drastically negative unintended consequences. So what is the real message? Be strategic, be patient, and be pragmatic. There is a way to create the world you want, and you need good intentions to do it. But you have to be thoughtful about the way you are doing it. Protesting for protesting’s sake doesn’t accomplish anything. Neither does yelling at or demonizing those who disagree with you.

Making progress, getting things done, is about compromise. Not the type of compromise that says throw your ideals out the window, but the kind that makes you adapt. The type of compromise you will need to create the change you seek is the kind where you must constantly decide what is essential and what is expendable. What are the core precious tenets of what you strive for? These are the important questions.

And lastly, to those who tell you idealism and good intentions just lead to hell and do not accomplish anything, ask them this: what are the intentions of all the people doing great stuff in the world? Did MLK, Gandhi or Yitzhak Rabin have negative and purely self-interested intentions? What about Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa? The reality is that all of these people had great intentions; they held their ideals high and never compromised what was vital to them. But they were all also incredibly conscious of the current realities within which they operated. They understood that the only way to change a reality is to understand it first.

If you want to change the world, you must first learn about the world around you. And then what will happen is, as Geoff King would say, “the world is yours.”


David Heifetz


-David Heifetz is a Carletonian columnist

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