Yesterday a very wealthy couple, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, wrote a letter to their newborn daughter, Max, with a plan and a pledge to donate $45 billion dollars to help ensure that your generation grows up in a world better than ours today. As I read the news, I was thankful that a couple with so much power, because of the money they have made, feel morally responsible to make the world a better place not just for their own child but for every child. But, I also felt a little small, a little insignificant.
You see, like Priscilla and Mark, I also want to make the world a better place and there are times when I look at the world and feel overwhelmed by all the disease, poverty and inequalities. When reading their letter I started imagining all the things I could do if only I was more creative, better connected, smarter, wealthier and I got discouraged. I will never have $45 billion to invest in the brightest doctors working to find a cure for cancer, or a new school with state of the art technology to individualize learning or nonprofits working to connect people and build strong communities. And so, I went to bed thinking about all the ways I can be more creative, can connect with more influential people, can learn more and can ultimately earn more money so that I too can change the world.
And then I woke up this morning and I lifted you out of your crib and you smiled at me, rested your head on my shoulder and reminded me that I am creative, connected, smart and wealthy enough to make a difference in YOUR life and in the community around me and that is what matters. I realized that there are parents everywhere who create a better world for their children not by donating $45 billion but by doing ordinary things that contribute in a small way to the greater good. So, like Mark and Priscilla, I make a pledge to you and all the other children of your generation to make the world a better place.
Like Mark said in his letter, building a better world starts with building strong and healthy communities. So, while Mark and Priscilla use their resource pool to build technology, invest in experts, build model schools, take big risks and participate in policy and advocacy on a grand scale, I will do my part to invest in my community for you and your peers to grow.
I cannot donate large sums of money to doctors trying to find a cure for diseases that affect our neighbors, but life on this earth has taught me that bad things happen to really great people and that although I may not have the power to make it all go away, I can offer a shoulder to cry on, a hug to someone in need, an ear for someone who needs to talk and a warm cooked meal to a family who is overwhelmed. And if we all do a little more of that, this world will be a better place.
Building model schools where every child can experience individualized learning is a goal I would love to see come to fruition. However, I also know that the most important lessons you and your peers will learn will be learned as you walk through life and experience the ups and downs. And so, I pledge to encourage you to learn and explore the world around you every step of the way and to offer encouragement when the lessons get hard. I promise to celebrate your creativity and strengths. I pledge to teach you everything I know but also allow you to learn your own lessons because then you will know more than me. And, I pledge to support the learning of your peers. It doesn’t take $45 billion to help a child develop a passion for learning, but it does take time. You have taught me in the last 14 months that no amount of money can buy what time can give and that time can be far more valuable than money.
Developing technology and software so that people can connect with one another and resources is not how I am going to change the world. I have neither the funds or skills to do so. Which is why it is a good thing that strong communities are not built by technology but by the people within it. Technology is a tool and one that I do believe is changing the world, but we must remember that behind every mobile device, computer, gaming system there is a human. Technology is a powerful resource that can be used to help make the world a better place, but it will never be able to replace the power of a real life community. Real community, the kind that goes out of its way to help neighbors, trusts each other with their own children, truly supports it’s weakest members is not build through machine interaction, but instead through smiles, handshakes, tears, laughter and hugs.
And so, my pledge to your generation is that I will get up from behind the computer, I will put my cell phone down and I will engage in my community. I will attend the high school football team even though I don’t know anyone on the team. I will go to the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony even though it is cold and I could watch an even bigger tree be lit on TV. I will shop at a local businesses because I know my money will help support a family in my community. I will offer to watch another mother’s children when she has something come up. I will donate food and clothing to my local food banks because even though I don’t have $45 billion to give, I do have more than some.
Just like Mark and Priscilla, I am so excited to watch my baby girl grow. I am excited to listen to your plans to make the world a better place. I want you to know that although we may not be the wealthiest family on the block, we are rich in love and we promise to share that love with the world around us with the hope that we will change it for the better.
I love you,