Today I’ve completed 49 trips around the sun. When I was born, phones came attached to the wall, there were three channels and TV was mostly black-and-white (50% color TV penetration in the US didn’t happen until the middle 1970s). Isaac Asimov’s novels didn’t have computers in them, because what the bleep was a computer?
Man hadn’t landed on the moon, or even the Houston soundstage.
Seatbelts did not come standard on most automobiles.
Facebook was a paper printout at Harvard.
And so on. I tell my junior high students that we’re going to watch all the cell-cam footage of 9/11 every year, then just pull a “psych!” on them, because there isn’t any. Cell phones didn’t come with cameras until three years later.
No one had ever heard of Michael Jackson, Michael Phelps, or Michael Jordan. Bill Gates was broke. Steve Jobs was just an annoying teenager. And everyone was excited about the new retail sensation–K Mart.
I think it’s safe to say that nearly everything we knew about how the world worked, what was going to last forever and what wasn’t, and which things were worth paying attention to–was wrong. Hugely, incredibly, hilariously wrong.
But there are some things that were true then that are still true now:
* Every human being deserves to be respected.
* The color of one’s skin does not tell you a damn thing about the content of one’s character.
* Commitment is just another word for love.
* Music expresses more than words alone.
* Hard work and persistence will crush genius every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
* No matter what your personal tragedy, no matter how awful it is, no matter how dark your personal night, the sun will rise. The sun always rises.
* My mother is a saint. My father is the smartest man I know.
I’m happy with where the last 49 years have gotten me. I’ve had it very good, in every way, from the day I was (prematurely) born. Few people in all the world, in any time, have ever had half the good fortune I have, starting where and to whom I was born, and running through the wonderful woman I’ve married and the children we’ve born together. It could, in all sincerity, hardly have gone better.
And here’s to another 50 more.