Joe Nathan writes a regular column and I respond from time to time. I've known Joe for almost 20 years. He started the first charter school in the United States in Minnesota in 1992 and is now the Director of the Center for School Change at Macalaster College. He and I are often on the same wavelength and here's a recent exchange with part of Joe's column to begin.
" Somewhere between Marina Keegan, friends and Bret Stephens, there’s something worth saying to graduates. While I’m not yet sure what I’ll tell the Higher Ground Academy graduates and their families this weekend, here’s what I’m thinking.
Part of this is influenced by Marina Keegan. Last month this 22-year- old graduated from Yale. A fine writer, campus activist, and person in love, she already had a great job lined up at the New Yorker magazine.
In a recent column for the Yale News, she wrote, “I’m scared of losing this web we’re in. This elusive, indefinable, opposite of loneliness…But let us get one thing straight: the best years of our lives are not behind us….We’re so young. We’re so young. We’re 22 years old. We have so much time.”
She concluded, “We’re in this together, 2012. Let’s make something happen to this world.”
Keegan was right about a lot. But she did not have “so much time.” Five days after graduating, she died in a car crash. She was wearing a seat belt.
As I read her words, I wept. I cried for her, her family, and for the good that she probably would have done. Perhaps in death, she will help others."
Her final essay is here:
Good thoughts, all, and I share your grief at losing someone like Marina Keegan and so many others who, it would seem to us and our limited judgment, leave us prematurely before they were able to share more of who they were. That’s why I don’t hold out much for “the best is yet to come” and I’ll tell you why. All that we know that we have for sure is this moment, perhaps today and even the rest of today can be uncertain, for life is fragile, unpredictable and can be extinguished in a heartbeat, so to speak. However, we don’t live on the edge of that. We live with hope.
I interviewed hundreds of high school students across the country and most of them were living for tomorrow, or the future, and getting ready for what is next. As I pursued those conversations, it seemed that so much of what they were thinking about and doing was future-oriented whether going to college, getting a job, starting a family, buying a house, making money, retiring early, etc, pursuing the American Dream. When I said to them that it seemed to me they were going to spend most of their life getting ready to die they looked and sounded shocked. Well, I said, seems like you’re always getting ready for whatever is next.
I asked how about living fully in the present? Give all that you can today, this week, this month, this year, to this work that you’re doing now and live much more in the here and now, how about that? Hmmm, new concept to many! We all know kids like Marina - talented, gifted and who leave their mark in one way or another. We’re grateful to them, to their families and their teachers for what they have contributed, for however long they’re with us.