Yo Yo Ma to students: You have witnessed power and abusemain
From the cellist’s commencement address to Dartmouth College:
I’m sure that in the course of your lifetime, including the last four years, you have witnessed power and its abuse. When you were young, you probably saw it on the playground. You’ve seen it on this campus. We certainly have all seen it in our nation, and around the world.
In my own lifetime, I’ve seen too many people make decisions that put themselves before their community, before society, before the health of our planet. I’ve seen too many people who choose to build walls rather than bridges.
Sometimes it’s because of the arrogance of their certitude, or because of simple, blissful unawareness. Sometimes it’s because of their ego, or self-deception, and sometimes it’s a deliberate act of revenge. Other times, it’s the primal, addictive pursuit of conquest—conquest of all kinds.
What’s worse is that we come up with a lot of excuses for this behavior. We tell ourselves that we’re making decisions based on efficiency, on the balance sheet, on superior intelligence or unique talent and understanding. We tell ourselves it’s for the protection of our tribe or our trade. But by reducing decisions to these standards, we are forgetting about the empathy we are born with, about the trust others have put in us, and about the obligations to one another as human beings.
That is why culture is so important. Culture resists reduction and constantly reminds us of the beautiful complexities that humans are made of, both individually and collectively. The stories we tell; the music we make; the experiments and buildings we design. Everything that helps us to understand ourselves, to understand one another, to understand our environment—culture.
But, it’s not just the culture we learn about in textbooks or see in a museum. It’s the arts and sciences; all the different disciplines that ask us to try, to trust, and to build. It’s culture that inspires deep learning and curiosity, that makes us want to seek the universal principles that drive everything.
Full text here.