A Pox on Both Their Houses

Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico in the last few days destroying the territory’s fragile electrical grid. Just so you know, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States of America and its citizens are natural-born citizens of the United States; at the same time they have no representation in Congress and are not allowed to vote in the Presidential Reality Show.

I bring this up because Puerto Rico is going to need large amounts of aid to at least minimize the misery that’s going to go on there for a very long time. The needed aid will come on top of the aid required for parts of Florida and Texas (and other states) due Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

While I think some aid will flow there, without Puerto Rico having powerful representatives in the halls of Congress, the aid will not be enough. It will be enough to provide the appearance of relief for the beleaguered people of Puerto Rico – at least until television moves on to other news stories as it has already done with the victims of Harvey and Irma.

At some point we will then hear the debates in Congress about how “social programs” need to be cut because aid packages and unfunded liabilities are drowning this country in debt. The “liberal” Democrats will cry crocodile tears for those who will be affected by cuts and they will lament how they can’t bring Medicare for All to reality so we need to stick with the corporate friendly Obamacare.

All in all, more bullshit.

Because none of them will volunteer or will be asked on the empty-headed news channels why they all voted to increase defense spending. The 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support this week. The act approved $700 billion for defense – $80 billion more than last year. As reference points, that $80 billion would be enough to make public colleges and universities tuition free or only $47 billion of that would be enough to fund Bernie Sander’s Medicare for All.

Think about the opportunity cost of voting for more war at the expense of taking care of the people. Then think about who supported the choice made.

Only eight Senators voted against the bill: Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

Voting for it were all the supposedly leading liberals who are considered the party leaders – some of whom are talked about as contenders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020. That would include Cory Booker (NJ); Diane Feinstein (CA); Al Franken (MN); Amy Klobuchar (MN); Chuck Schumer (NY) and Elizabeth Warren (MA). Also voting for it were both of Washington State’s supposedly liberal senators: Maria Cantrell and Patty Murray.

The reality is that this country has a single war party masquerading as two parties to give citizens the illusion of choice. As George Carlin said, you have no choice, you only have owners.

Remember that in 2018 or 2020 when you’re told you have to vote for the lesser of two evils. Evil is evil.

Tom Morgan: A Tribute

Tom Morgan died on Monday, June 12th 2017, at the age of 76.

As a life-long fly fisherman and later a rod designer, he had owned both the R. L. Winston fly rod company from 1973 to 1991, and Tom Morgan Rodsmiths from 1996 to early 2017.

Tom was widely admired for his extreme commitment to craftsmanship as well as his focus on casting rods designed more for fishing than casting long distance; he rejected the industry trend of rods that overperformed for the line weight for which they’re rated. Tom said those rods robbed fly fishers of the joy of casting a properly flexing rod.

And there’s one other thing you should know about him – he hadn’t gripped a fly rod in the last 20 years of his life. For you see, Tom had suffered from Multiple Sclerosis (MS) since the early 1990’s. He took his last fishing trip (to New Zealand) in 1994; a year later he could no longer walk.

He loved fly fishing so much that even when he was unable to fly fish himself he committed himself to designing and building what many consider the worlds finest rods. They are known for reel seats made of exotic woods, cork handles crafted to fit an angler’s hand, burgundy graphite rod blanks that shimmer in the sunlight, ultrasuede-lined rod bags and rod tubes topped with a minted coin of his logo.

Unable to do the hands-on work himself his wife Geri Carlson became his apprentice. He provided the ideas and she became his hands as they grew his company.

What is truly remarkable is that the disease that robbed of him of his physical health and ability did not rob him of his joy for life. As he said in an interview on CBS, he could be brought to tears by realizing his efforts brought so much joy to others.

Few of us know how we would face a similar debilitating illness that shattered the life we had and the thing we treasured most. The best we can hope for is to have a passion for something so strong that it can overcome even the worst life can hurl at us.

Rest in peace Tom.

Commencement Speech 2017

In 2015 I wrote a commencement speech for the faceless graduates of that year. This year I decided to update the speech based on some personal experiences and meeting some of the people discussed in this speech.

Graduates, congratulations and welcome to the adult world.

You’ve already heard – no doubt – the soaring words of renowned speakers from business, entertainment, or government – who may be, or deserve to be, on their way to prison. By now, your asses are sore and your minds are weary from the half-funny anecdotes, inspiring rhetoric, and trite advice from those who have already achieved incomparable success.

You’re now thinking hand out the damned diploma; I have to endure relatives I can barely remember and attend a number of parties.
Before that, may I add several thoughts of my own? I promise to be relatively brief – or not.

Might I suggest that the stirring words of the eminent commencement speakers related to the unlimited opportunities you all have are just so much bullshit?

Listening to someone who defied the odds and achieved so much success – generally, that means obscene amounts of money – isn’t going to be a model or a possibility for most, if not all, of you.

Remember, I just welcomed you to the adult world. Adults acknowledge reality.

The truth is many of you have limited opportunities – and I only will mention the debt load you now carry that will limit your choices for a number of years; for some, maybe your entire working life.

I do hope we as a country get smart and, recalling the Book of Leviticus, declare a Jubilee year for all your college debts. You need to get on with your lives as previous generations did and do and all the things your parents and television taught you is part of being a grownup.

And to be completely honest, it will allow you to pay your taxes to keep Social Security going to take care of your parents and grandparents as they move out of the work force. And if you think Social Security is just something for all those old people – just wait. You’ll be one of them before you know it.

You face many challenges as you start your careers.

Some of these challenges are the same previous generations faced: tensions between nuclear-armed states; prejudice and oppression based on gender and race; increasing rates of economic inequality; public health issues; military adventurism in little understood parts of the world; and jobs being replaced by automation or being shipped overseas.

But you also face significant challenges that no previous generation sitting where you are now has faced.

I will cite only one: dramatic climate change is happening now and may threaten human existence in your lifetime. As David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, said, there is no business to be done on a dead planet.

Scary stuff indeed – particularly when you are looking forward to a long successful career.

But you sitting here means you still have more opportunities than members of your generation who didn’t have the ability or means to get where you are now.

Don’t forget them – more on them in a bit.

And you may not have thought about it, but you have already limited yourself by your choice of the major degree you just received. At least for right now, it will define your salary, your choices as to where you will live and where you will work, and who you will know. It may even affect whom you can – or can’t – marry.

Now you probably don’t see it that way.

You are at an age where you may think your life will go on forever and you can decide to do anything, so most decisions and choices are of little consequence as you can make up for them later.

Trust me on this. Life is more fragile than you may think. Strong and powerful one day – flat on your back struggling to be alive the next. Never take life or how long you will live for granted. And sorry to break the news: every one of you is going to die someday no matter how well or poorly you live.

Even without a serious illness, life will happen, and as much as you dread or deny it now, you will become just like your parents by being first caught up in the distractions and temptations of your twenties (not that there’s anything wrong with that) until you move into your more mature thirties and become loaded down with a mortgage, diapers, daycare, parent-teacher conferences, and soccer.

And hopefully not, but the odds are increasing you will find yourself unemployed as your chosen career evaporates.

You have lived your entire lives with iPhones Facebook, Snapchat and all the other technologies in a way no previous generation on Earth has. You have taken it as a given that all this technology is so terrific.

As you enter the workforce you will see the crushing side of that technology with demands for your constant availability at all hours – at least until your job is sent overseas or taken over by a robot.

Remember, immersing yourself in virtual reality with your phone will never ever be as real or important as holding someone’s hand or taking a walk in the woods.

Whatever happens, one day you will look up and realize you haven’t lived the life you planned or dreamed of when you were sitting where you are now. It’s not necessarily going to be worse – or better. But it will be different. For most of you, that will mean making peace with the choices and compromises you made. For a very few, that will lead to dramatic changes or unfortunate outcomes.

As I said earlier, adults acknowledge reality.

A few other thoughts.

You didn’t get to choose your parents or the circumstances of your birth. And neither did anyone else. So be cautious when judging anyone.

The homeless person might be a battle-scarred vet from this country’s endless wars or someone who fell out of the bottom after an illness bankrupted their family.

The guy in the dirty looking jeans just might be an NFL quarterback looking to buy a car.

The barista at Starbucks may be a law school graduate unable to find a law firm willing to hire her.

The sandwich maker at Subway may be desperate to find a way out of his dead-end job but unsure how to proceed in an economy that has done away with the blue-collar middle class.

The attractive well-dressed couple driving the Benz and who live in the gated community may have nothing in their house and are a missed paycheck or two away from losing it all.

Many of you will spend your working lives slouching in a chair, or maybe standing, starting at a glass screen – and it doesn’t matter if it’s in a corporate campus, your home office, or at a café in Prague.

You will be valued not for who you are, but only for how much you add to the bottom line each year – no matter what you’re told during the hiring process; and you need to understand those expectations will increase every year, often dramatically.

In other words, your career, even if you can hold onto it, may not turn out as well as you hope. So have a plan B.

Along the way you will encounter other people who earn their money doing more physical labor: the road crews working to repair the roads you drive; the truck drivers who come and haul your trash and garbage; the plumber who fixes your pipes; the carpenters who build the addition on your house; the people who serve you food or help you at Home Depot; and all the others.

They have their hopes and dreams too. You could have been them – and you still might be. In other words, there is dignity in all work and you should probably become familiar with the business end of a shovel.

Don’t accept at face value the words of anyone in a position of authority in business, government, or religion. They represent institutions that work for their own interests, and they will use you up – and maybe kill you – in the process. And they all lie all the time.

Remember that political ideology is a crutch; in recent years it has become a form of secular religion. Be wary of the political parties’ articles of faith and whom they establish as your designated saviors. Believe nothing said even from politicians you like and respect until they demonstrate actions beyond elegant phrases.

Always think for yourself, and given the seductive messages and sophisticated controls in place through the mass media think everything through again – and still be skeptical.

Here’s some final reality-based advice.

Stay awake to what your life is and where it’s headed starting right now. Associate only with people who have integrity and love in their hearts.
Be open to what life offers.

Nearly everyone when they’re your age has something offered to them; it could be a job in a different location; a blind date; or a chance to meet someone. These are doors to be walked through. Most of you will be presented with a number of these opportunities over the next few years.

But unless your family name is Clinton or Trump these opportunities will only come for a brief period. Sooner than you think, everyone will see the wide-eyed look you have now will have been replaced by the slightly glazed look that comes from having a job and responsibilities – a life that has few parties, no final exams, no year abroad, and no semester or summer breaks.

So when a door opens, if it feels right in your gut, take the chance and walk through it. It won’t always be what you hoped; it may not work out. But you won’t know unless you try.

And as means of encouragement, you may have heard of the 80/20 rule. It’s actually called the Pareto Principle, which states 80 percent of the effects comes from 20 percent of the causes.

So if you try enough times and take enough chances you’ll get most of what you want. We’re all adults here now, right? So most doesn’t mean all.

But for the majority of you, that will still give you an extraordinary life filled with people you love and who love you, and with a sense of personal worth.

Now, get busy. You need to take the lead and be the generation that fixes the problems I mentioned earlier.

Congratulations and well done.

Thank you.

The Beach is Back

Narrows Bridges

Well, to be honest…the beach never went anywhere. What’s back was me on the beach. Today, I finally got out to the beach to get my waders wet and cast my fly. It was the first time fly-fishing since last year – before my daughter’s wedding and before the medical adventure.

I could not have picked a better day.

It was sunny with scattered clouds. Neither is notable, except for the notable fact the sun has been scarce in these parts for many months. And the amount of sunlight did affect one’s comfort, as the temperature swing was notable as the sun played hide and seek.

Still, with only zephyrs for wind and an ebb tide this was a day to go fishing. I had planned to go to Purdy. But as I came to the parking area the seven cars there were enough to suggest that it was already crowded. So I made a beeline for Narrows Park.

There were a few fly fishers and spin casters on the beach, but given the length of the beach between Point Evans and Point Fosdick, crowds are never an issue. Starting with a pink shrimp pattern I began casting as I worked my way to the bridges. The chum fry are moving out of the creeks but I thought it might be a bit early for them to have made it to the Narrows so I kept my chum baby flies in the box.

I did need to focus on my casting for fishing. Don’t hold the rod too tight. Lengthen the casting stroke as more line was out. Let the rod do the work. Focus on a good back cast. Those are easy to remember in the backyard – less so when standing in the water hoping to catch a fish.

I made progress in putting them all together again. A few more times and they’ll be back in muscle memory. Then it will be time to work on the fishing double haul.

I made my way past the Narrows Bridge, casting along the way with nothing to show for the effort. No hits and definitely no fish brought in. And it did bring back a truth about fishing in Puget Sound – the only consistency is inconsistency.

But there was nothing to complain about.

The day was beautiful. Lots of boats were passing both down and up the Sound. Gulls were overhead. And out in the middle of the Narrows – where the currents are the strongest a couple of harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) were playing.

I sat on a log and watched the world for a time, thinking about how lucky I was to be where I was. As my hunger alarm clock went off, I switched to a chartreuse Clouser tube fly and began my trek back to the parking lot – stopping again at the places where trout or resident Coho can be found – if they’re there. As on the walk out there were none. And I wasn’t the only one, no one I spoke to was having any luck.

Looking around one last time as I got back to the path up to the parking lot I had the same regret at leaving I always do. Why that is will be for another time.

For now, it was only the first time out this year – it won’t be the last. Fish on.

Social Media and The Loss of Serendipity

Recently I read a post on the Chrome Chasers‘ blog that got me thinking about social media and the way in which it threatens the unexpected in the things we do and encounter in our lives.

In his post, Keith Allison – owner of Chrome Chasers – observes that social media is one of the biggest threats to steelhead. Where fly fishers used to drive for hours in the hope of finding steelhead – with some incredible trips while others wound up as busts, now people consult social media for up to the minute status, guaranteeing that once quiet lightly peopled rivers are flooded with crowds and boats all wanting to hit the “epic” conditions.

He went on to say that he’s seen out of area guides posting about their success – thus bringing in more people, and in one instance he helped out a guide in trouble who was taking clients down a river the guide had never run before. I guess you can’t blame the guide; after all he was after the epic conditions for his paying clients and didn’t have time to do his homework. I wonder if his clients knew how poorly he served them.

Social media is now omnipresent and here to stay. Some estimates suggest that by 2018, 2.4 billion people will be using social media (up from less than one million in 2010). That expected increase is in spite of the revelations that every communication online eventually winds up in some government big-data store.

And it’s not to say that social media doesn’t have its uses from enabling societal change as happened in Tunisia and Egypt, or being used as a focal point for communication between family or friends during disasters. And it’s handy for being reminded to pick up something from the grocery on the way home.

The problem I see is that social media eliminates the separation between the private and the public. Everything we see, do, think or feel winds up posted, texted or tweeted. There is no pause to reflect on whether what is being done should be closely held or broadcast (literally) to the world.

As individuals, I think we have to own the responsibility for deciding what to post, text, or tweet. And I think we also have to be responsible for deciding what we read in social media.

In fly-fishing or any other activity in nature, it’s often better not to know and just show up and be open to what happens.

There have been mornings spent on Puget Sound where no sea run cutthroat trout were to be found. But then again, on many of those mornings there were eagles overhead and seals just off the beach. One morning, I looked behind me to see a deer looking at me.

I would have lost those opportunities if I had read a post saying there was nothing to catch in the Narrows and then decided not to go or go somewhere else. And I would have deprived someone else of the same random chance if I had been the one doing the posting.

We all need to be responsible for protecting the natural world and what it offers in terms of privacy and solitude. And maybe take a moment to think about what and when before posting or tweeting after landing that steelhead or trout.

You can read the post here.

The Medical Adventure Completed

It has been a long while since my last post, which reflects how long it took for my medical adventure (discussed in my last post) to be finished.

I did have my gall bladder removed in early December and thought that would be the end of it. However, that wasn’t to be the case.

Two days after Christmas, we went in for the two-week followup with my surgeon. After a few errands we stopped in for lunch at Subway. No reflection on Subway, but while standing in line I grew faint and passed out just as my wife got me into a booth.

That resulted in a Medic One ride to the emergency room; riding in their rig was sort of cool.

At the hospital I was diagnosed with another round of e coli; in addition I had an abscess at the site of the surgery. Both resulted in another four-day stay in the hospital and another drain – this time for the abscess.

Two weeks later I went in to have the drain removed, and the radiologist said what they thought to be a side pocket of that abscess was actually a second one. In addition, its location meant another drain would have to be inserted – this time through the liver. Yikes.

That drain was finally pulled on January 26th. Since then I’ve been free of fever or infection with no further complications. The doctors said as there was no infection while I had the last drain in (and being off all antibiotics) odds were more than good I was finally done with this. As it is, that’s the case.

Now comes the effort to rebuild my strength and endurance. During the last three months when I wasn’t looking someone had taken my arms and shoulders and replaced them with the same from some old man. I need to get mine back.

And sometime soon it’s time to get back fly fishing.

Back from the Precipice

I had a recent medical experience that reminded me of how fragile our lives are and how unexpectedly we can face our own mortality. In other words, if things had turned out slightly differently, I wouldn’t be here writing this.

In late October what I thought was the start of the flu turned out to be much more serious. Beginning with eight hours in the emergency room, I then spent five additional days in the hospital battling sepsis (blood infection) and acute kidney failure. My gall bladder had dropped a stone and was in a diseased state.

The details of the time in the hospital need not be detailed – except to say two things. I can only say how humbling it is to have a team of medical professionals working to save your life. The other is that being catheterized is an extremely unpleasant experience.

I was also humbled by the visits and thoughts of many people who were concerned about me. I had visitors I never thought would come by. My sister and my mother-in-law had prayer circles underway. I know many others were concerned and worried about me.

Through the week, I never felt really sick – except for when the catheter was put in and a very long second night in the hospital when I had delusions due to a combination of a drug and sepsis; that was a night of horror I want to forget.

But I got an understanding of how close this had been when my hospital doctor visited on the fourth day and said I was “back from precipice” and that it “had been a very near thing.” That was an eye opener and I finally realized how easily this could have gone the other way.

I’ve been out almost three weeks now and am slowly regaining strength. I am walking up to two miles, but I still feel weak at times. Sleep is the biggest problem; I still have difficulty getting a full night’s sleep. I have a percutaneous drain for bile; hopefully I will have outpatient surgery in early December to remove the gall bladder. These are issues, but I believe and hope they will soon be overcome and then just be memories.

It’s good to be alive.

Grace Under Pressure

Ernest Hemingway, in a letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1926, first used the phrase “grace under pressure.” Often repeated, the phrase is meant to define the meaning of courage or guts.

We live in an age where the word hero is used for everyone from all members of the military to professional athletes to everyone who volunteers for something. And courage is implied in everything associated with the word hero. No doubt there are various types of courage displayed in anyone who faces physical harm.

But there is another form of courage and that is the personal moral kind. Quiet without fanfare or publicity it may be even more profound than the physical. For it is the very notion of grace under pressure.

I had the opportunity to see this latter form last month.

My daughter Katherine married her beloved Ryan.

The day was sunny and warm and matched the gorgeous location. Friends and relatives from both near and far were in attendance. Katherine was radiant, and we both shed a few tears at our “first look” and father / daughter dance.

Long anticipated and planned, it was likely the best day of her life to this point.

Then as life often does, the high of that day was replaced by the extreme low of the next.

Ryan tearfully called me the next day to tell me that Katherine’s beloved Annabelle, her eight and a half year old Aussie, had died the previous morning – the day of her wedding. They had only found out that morning from Ryan’s parents.

Helen and Greg, Ryan’s parents, had decided to take care of Annabelle and Ryan’s dog Oakley so the kids would not have to worry about a dog sitter.

As they prepared to leave for the wedding, Annabelle came up to one of them, looked up and collapsed. Though rushed to a vet, with the assistance of a family friend who had flown in for the wedding and who performed CPR on the way, Annabelle died. (The vet’s suspicion was that she suffered an aneurysm.)

Greg and Helen (and their friend Sharon) faced a crisis. Though devastated by the death of Annabelle, they determined they would not ruin the wedding day of Katherine and Ryan.

They stoically kept it to themselves through a very long day, keeping their grief private for the greater good of all in attendance at the wedding.

There are many tragedies in life – some big some small. And death lurks in the future of all of us and everyone we know. We all face it and other losses through our lives.

But the key thing, it seems to me, is the way in which we deal with all the pain and loss a life lived brings.

Helen, Sharon, and Greg – on a day when so many were happy – displayed grace under pressure in a way I’ve not seen in a long time. For that, and the way they gave Katherine and Ryan their day, they have my eternal admiration.

Thinking about the National Anthem and Protests

The din that arose concerning Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand during the national anthem at the start of an NFL game, has not abated. Indeed, he has been joined by other professional athletes, as well as athletes at the collegiate and high school levels. All have stated they are protesting the lack of racial progress in this country and in particular the numbers of young black men killed by police.

The most common response to the phenomenon is they are “disrespecting” the country – and by extension all police and members of the military – by refusing to stand for a song. One commentator went so far as to say that Colin Kaepernick was supporting ISIS by refusing to stand for the anthem.

First, before anything else, I want to protest the lack of respect given the noun disrespect. Yes, the Oxford English Dictionary cites its use as a verb as far back as 1614 and in North America it has gained increasing use – beginning in urban street culture, it has moved into the mainstream. But to me, it makes someone seem too lazy to search for a better sentence. Sorry if I showed disdain for its use; didn’t mean to disrespect you.

On to the main issue – what is the responsibility of a citizen to stand at the national anthem or the Pledge of Allegiance?

These are treasured symbols of American democracy and I understand that.

From the earliest days of elementary school, I recall standing at attention with my right hand over my heart and my raised left hand pointing to the flag as we recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And while serving as a Naval Officer, I stood at attention with pride in numerous domestic and foreign locations as the national anthem played.

The US flag and national anthem both add to the “mystic chords of memory” for US citizens, to borrow the last majestic line from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

But they are symbols intended to remind us of something more transcendent; and that is the system of government and our individual rights as formalized by the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.

I will refrain, but only a bit, from George Carlin’s pun that they are symbols and symbols should be left to the symbol-minded.

The point is that revering a symbol while separating it from its deeper meaning does not represent the same thing as revering the deeper meaning. Beyond that, one can not pick and choose the rights we have as citizens.

During the 1980s, the Republican party, cynically but brilliantly, co-opted the US flag as its own; the subtle message was to say that only it represented American values. Others, in order to protest policies undertaken by the Reagan administration – particularly in Central America, burned the flag. There were the same screams about “anti-American” we hear today.

It seemed to me then as it seems to me now that political protest is a profound right of citizenry as articulated and protected in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. One can not pick and choose in which forum free speech is permissible.

Or consider the ongoing uproar over the Second Amendment. Without arguing the merits or demerits of their arguments, to listen to gun lobby one would think it is the most sacred right enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

At the same, the holy warriors of the Second Amendment do not raise the same howling protests over the ongoing violations of the First, Fourth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eight Amendments that are flouted by successive Presidential administration since the passing of the PATRIOT act and the “war on terror.”

Finally, the indignation over seeing young black men exercise their rights to freedom of speech must be seen in the following way – disrespect is appropriate only when it is not accompanied by political speech.

Think that’s absurd?

Let’s start with Title 36 of the US Code. Section 301 states that during the playing of the national anthem all individuals (not in the military and in uniform) should stand at attention with their right hands over their hearts, and men not in uniform should remove their headgear and hold it over their left shoulder (their right hand being over their heart).

I’ve watched many NFL games over the years and I’ve watched plenty of people standing casually during the national anthem – men and women wearing silly hats; talking with their neighbors; holding a beer in one hand; or eyeing the cheerleaders. I never heard one instance of protest over any of them “disrespecting” the police and military – or giving aid and comfort to ISIS.

Apparently we are democracy only when its convenient, and only when it doesn’t interfere with sports entertainment. And not to put too fine point on it – only when it is practiced by a majority that acts in accord with what the political elites want.

There is Hope for The Future

Lily Tomlin once said, “no matter cynical you are, it’s never enough to keep up.”

Looking around, it’s not hard to agree with that sentiment. Particularly in this election year, with the two corrupt and despised apparent candidates for President; with promises and threats made to various ethnic and interest groups, where bathroom use and walls push aside issues of war and peace, climate change, and economic inequality; and with mass media that promotes conformity, fear, and sensationalism for profit – all of it is enough to result in a deep cynicism and pessimism about the future.

But then there are moments, or in this case three hours, where hope for the future can be restored.

Last night, my wife and I attended Peninsula High School’s presentation of the musical, Les Misérables and I came away from it renewed with an understanding that youth always brings the promise of a brighter future.

Watching those bright eager faces as they portrayed characters experiencing the injustices, cruelty, and idealism of revolutionary France brought laughter and tears. But beyond that was an understanding of the amount of work these actors, musicians, and technicians put into the effort that was all left on the stage. They held nothing back.

And meeting and congratulating them after the musical, up close after they shed their on-stage makeup and roles, they were proud but still self conscious teenagers.

They are all from what’s been called Generation Z (born 1995-2012), and if the backdrop of their lives – (perpetual war, hyper consumerism, breakdown of economic fairness and opportunity, fracturing of society along political and social identity, and intrusive media and government) – has seemed remote or irrelevant except to their parents and teachers, perhaps this musical has opened the door to them understanding what’s beyond their classrooms and homes.

We heard from a friend that at rehearsals their faculty director coached them that they needed to move with wretchedness and despair; playing prostitutes or idealists facing their own deaths on the barricades are not occasions for levity. From what they put on the stage they learned their lesson well.

As they move beyond this musical and high school, they will each in turn enter the next stages of their lives. As with all previous generations they will find happiness and sorrow, comedy and tragedy, and some measure of success and some measure of failure.

But that is all in the future. For in that bright crescendo moment last night, they all showed they have the power and opportunity to change the world and be something bigger then themselves. By starting with what they gave us last night they can make this a better world by embracing the best and rejecting the worst of the human experience.

And if I could wish one thing for each of them for reminding me again that the promise of the young offers hope for a better world, it would be that all their hopes and dreams come true.