An Open Letter to the Criminal, the Athlete, the Basket Case, the Princess, and the Brain


This message is for the generation that identifies with the Valley Girls, the Lost Boys, Bo and Luke Duke, Micky and, of course, Jack and Diane. To the rest of the preppies, jocks, stoners, poindexters, punkers, rockers, hicks, drama jocks, superstars, homebodies, farmers, new wavers and soc's, your voice as the new generation is rapidly approaching middle age. Ferris was right. Life moves pretty fast. I need just a moment of your time because our nation needs us now more than ever.

We share the memories of Snoopy sno-cone machines, Mad Magazine, Trapper Keepers, and Easy-Bake ovens. Remember when Coca-Cola and Ocean Pacific Highway were lines of clothing? Our jeans weren’t straight-leg or loose fitting. They were designer, stone washed, cut-off, or bleached, and if we weren’t wearing them high on our hips, we wore them as jackets adorned with patches and pins from the likes of Twisted Sister or Motley Crue. Pastel was in. Hair was up. Grody was to the max, and every dude was totally righteous.

Those were simpler times when our game controllers only had one button. If you wanted to play the most current video games, you needed a pocketful of quarters and a ride to the arcade at the nearest mall. While you were there, you could buy music at Tower Records or Wall to Wall Sound and Music in the form of a vinyl record or cassette tape. If you carried your music in your pocket, it was because you had a Walkman. This was our beginning, and the future was so bright . . . (go ahead and say it. You know you want to).

Optimism was our generation’s greatest quality. We defied big brother. We thought differently. We witnessed miracles on ice. We united against starvation in Africa through Live Aid and announced that We Are the World. We didn’t build The Wall. We tore it down. We had the tenacity of Wolverines but still retained the elegance to be Pretty in Pink. We challenged our generation to be all you can be, we stood by each other, and we pitied any fool who tried to put Baby in a corner. We were able to look past the hammer and sickle from the iron curtain and realized that the Russians loved their children too. We saw the end to the Cold War and brought East and West together. Hell, we even got the Rolling Stones and The Who to tour again. Saint Elmo’s Fire was something that burned inside our hearts. Our optimism inspired hope, and we changed the world.

So, what the hell happened to us? Today, our society is more divisive and polarized than at any other time in our lives. Go ahead and share any remotely political opinion on social media and watch what happens. The greatest source of conflict used to be the bickering between Alex and Mallory or Sam and Diane. Why are we so angry at each other? We can’t stop yelling long enough to listen. We choose to attack instead of offering respect or trying to understand. We are so spring-loaded to fight that we will even find a way to protest the protesters. We haven’t given peace a chance and have been a nation locked in a perpetual state of war with the world and each other.

How’s that been working out for us? What are we bestowing to our children besides two decades of unending wars and crippling debt? What kind of example are we setting? We are overweight, overmedicated, and overworked. We are addicted to poisons that range from alcohol and sugar to social media and smart devices. We don’t communicate through human interaction. We would rather look down at our phones instead of into the eyes of the person we are speaking to. We have disconnected ourselves from our lives and each other.

As a consequence, we have learned to settle for less from ourselves and each other. We were once connected through hardship and recognized our noble qualities in each other. We were The Breakfast Club. Now, we have disconnected from the shared identity and compassion that made us great. We haven’t secured hope for the next generation – we surrendered it. Our children have taken to the streets and become the activists in our absence. If we don’t want this to be our legacy, then perhaps it is time for us to remember who we are.

So many times, it happens too fast. You trade your passion for glory. Don’t lose your grip, on the dreams of the past. You must fight just to keep them alive. Remember what you felt when you heard that song and watched Rocky defeat Clubber Lang? We were so motivated! We were inspired. We dreamed of a world that was so much better than the world we have today. That dream is still alive so long as we have the will to fight for it. When you give up your dreams, you die. Three decades ago, we were the hopeful optimists. Today, we need to be the example. We need to lead. We must become that source of inspiration lacking in our communities, our workplaces, and across our nation.

I get it. Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we wanted or expected. We don’t have flying cars or hover boards like Doc and Marty predicted. Many of our icons - including the Man of Steel and Dr. Huxtable – have fallen. You may have suffered your own setbacks. Remember that the past may shape the future, but it doesn’t have to define it. Maverick lost Goose, but he still had the courage to get back into the fight. We can learn from the past several decades while remembering the hope and inspiration we cherished from our youth. Maybe we still haven’t found what we are looking for, but there’s still time to make it better. Together, we can make it right.

What’s made America the Shining City on a Hill is the courage, compassion, and energy of the people who live there. So what are you prepared to do about it? We are the criminals, athletes, basket cases, princesses, and brains of our generation. Our lives became ordinary, but we still have the power to be the hero of our own story. This is your call to action. You’ve been hiding out in detention for too long. It’s time for you to get out of library and lead, inspire, and achieve. The Greatest American Hero starts with the man – or woman - in the mirror. Take a look at yourself and make a small change today. Have the courage to show up. Get Involved. Be the leader. Through your own example, inspire the dream for the nation you always wanted and the world our children deserve.