Ted Koppel: 'Your Challenge Is to Turn Information Into Knowledge, and Knowledge Into Wisdom'

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How did our generation and our parents' generation rationalize their inaction, even their silence, in the face of all this evil? And anyway, what does all of this have to do with any of you on this occasion?

The voices of reason and compromise will whisper soothing and seductive questions in your ear: "Why is that an American problem? What do they expect us to do about it anyway?"

"We didn't know," we said, and they said. We didn't know what was going on in China or in the Soviet Union; we didn't find out until much too late what had happened during the Holocaust. It wasn't a really convincing excuse, but it was the best we could come up with.

Your generation won't even be able to take refuge in that. If satellite television doesn't inform you, the Internet will. You will know. And then the voices of reason and compromise will whisper soothing and seductive questions in your ear: "Why is that an American problem? What do they expect us to do about it anyway? Shouldn't we be more concerned about resolving our problems here at home?"

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My concern for you as you leave this place has nothing to do with the quality of your education or the anticipated comfort level of your lives. By most of the standards that can be applied uniformly to most people around the world, you will do well. You have the freedom and the means to travel as no previous generation has done. You have access to more information. Your lifespan should be longer, your health should be better. You have more choices available to you in your leisure time, and because you are educated men and women you are better equipped to compete in the flourishing marketplace that awaits you.


But in our eagerness to achieve material success and personal gratification, we seem to have overlooked a disturbing reality. Are Americans really happier today than they were 20 or 50 years ago? And if not, why not? Could it be that we spend so much time focusing our energies on acquiring and achieving that we are losing a little of our humanity?

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