Dear Class of 2034,

It’s finally here. That day when you will let go of that big grownup hand and go boldly where countless kids your age have gone before. Kindergarten requests the honor of your presence.

You come to this day already tested by a world that seems to be spinning out of control.

You’ve grown up amid a deadly, global pandemic – one that could have been all but over by now if more of us grownups had focused on stopping the COVID-19 virus, not bellyaching about how much we hate masks and vaccines.

Thus, as you tighten your mask and look around to size up your classmates, you won’t have the benefit of seeing their smiles … or frowns … or any of the other facial expressions that come with this rite of passage.

But you will still see their eyes. It’s there you’ll detect who’s excited, who’s scared, who’s confident, who’s shy. As for your own eyes, blend one part friendly with one part curious and you’ll be just fine.

If you’re the attentive type – and I’ve come to believe that all of you are – you’ve probably already noticed that a lot of grownups are angry these days. You’ve heard us argue about Trump, about people whose skin color isn’t the same as ours, about people who have too much money and people who don’t have enough.

Please, at least for now, try to tune out all that noise. Kindergarten should not be about choosing sides, hurling insults or closing hearts. It’s about being a sponge and soaking up everything around you, opening your young mind to all that is new and, yes, maybe even a little scary.

Being scared, by the way, is not a bad thing.

Back when I was your age, we were mostly scared of Russia. We practiced hiding under our desks in case the Russians dropped a nuclear bomb on us, convinced that we’d be safe as long as we “duck and cover.” That’s what the grownups promised so it had to be true, right?

Today, I regret to say, you have much more to worry about. Beyond COVID-19, or “the sickness,” as my grandsons call it, the Earth itself is changing fast – and not in a good way.

Before you finish high school 13 years from now, you will witness that change in the form of storms, floods, droughts and other natural calamities that grow worse with each passing year. Some grownups will tell you it’s all a hoax – global warming is no big deal. They will be wrong.

How do I know this? Because I believe in science. You should too – and when the time comes, you should study it diligently. It’s a great tool for separating what’s real from what’s made up. Sure, science is hard. But believing something that isn’t true? That’s dangerous.

Speaking of your studies, don’t forget history.

Three-quarters of a century ago, before I was even born, a thing called the Holocaust happened. Led by a madman named Hitler, Nazi Germany killed 6 million Jewish people and plunged the whole planet into World War II. Today there are people who claim it never happened.

The same goes for the first human moon landing in 1969 and the terrorist attacks on this country 20 years ago next month. Some would have you believe that Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon was actually staged in some remote desert and that the 9/11 attacks were the work of the U.S. government.

Again, don’t take their word for it. Dig deeply into our history. Learn what really happened. Celebrate the good. And never, ever, assume the bad can’t happen again.

Be a good communicator. By that, I don’t just mean spell words correctly and respect the rules of grammar – important as those things may be. I mean gather your thoughts, hold them up to the light and look at them from different directions. Then express them as clearly and concisely as you can.

A couple of inside tips: A strong noun is better than 10 flowery adjectives. And when it comes to verbs, an active one leaves a passive one in its dust.

Understand that smartphones and computers are there to serve you, not vice-versa. Learn the difference between a friend on Facebook and a friend who will be there in person, no questions asked, in your moment of utmost need. Leave Instagram to the easily distracted and tweeting to the birds.

Eat your vegetables. Run around at recess. Don’t hesitate to laugh out loud – it not only makes you feel good, science tells us it’s good for you too.

When you get angry, and you will, don’t bury it. But at the same time, don’t hit. It will only make you and the people around you feel worse.

If you see someone being bullied, stick up for them. If you see someone is lonely, offer to be their friend. If someone says they hate you, simply ask, “Why?”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret. For all that we grownups disagree about, we all want you to succeed, to avoid the mistakes we’ve made. We all pray that you will someday, somehow make this a better place than it is right now.

That’s asking a lot for sure. What are you, 5? Maybe 6? We have a lot of gall to hand you a world fractured in so many ways and say, “Our bad. Maybe you can fix it.”

Yet we have no choice. In the coming decades, it’s going to fall to you to keep the planet habitable, to restore civility to our public square, to like – maybe even love – one another again.

That starts now, kiddos. If you’re like I was a million years ago, that first day of kindergarten is going to be an emotional roller coaster as elation plummets into uncertainty and lump-in-your-throat thoughts of home careen into the comfort of your own cubby.

Your job? Simple.

Hold on tight. Keep your eyes, your ears and your heart open wide. And above all, enjoy the ride.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.