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updated 3/22/2006 11:10:17 AM ET 2006-03-22T16:10:17

There are a lot of things wrong with this world we’ve made: poverty, corruption, intolerance, waste of our resources, pollution of our air and water, urban sprawl, inefficient transportation, outmoded concepts of national sovereignty, the secret society of the establishment elite, the power of the military-industrial complex, the atomic race, the population explosion, war.
Some of our institutions have served us well; others have served us less than adequately because we have served them poorly.  We can believe that we can improve our use of them, and thus, bring about a more perfect society.  Or we can believe that we must replace them with something new.

To determine what we keep, what we change, and what we discard, we must pursue full and open inquiry, which may require throwing off old concepts and shibboleths.  

I wrote those words in 1971, before most of you were born.

Today, there is greater poverty in America, global warming threatens greater upheavals as we experienced with Katrina, more Americans are without healthcare, viruses are mutating and spreading across continents and religious extremism is growing.

But Americans are also better educated and more enlightened about human and animal rights and belief in equality irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or race. That applies especially to young Americans, like you.

Take action, speak up
You are on the cusp of inheriting the leadership of this country, as well as its role as one of the globe’s superpowers. I urge you to look around you, from your own neighborhood to the neighborhood halfway around the globe, and then look into your minds and souls.

I urge you to feel, think, evaluate and process what you like and don’t like, what you believe in and don’t believe in, what works for you, and what doesn’t. Not by the standards of others, not your friends, parents, teachers. Yours, alone.

And I urge you to take action about that which concerns you. Speak out. Speak up. Write a letter to your local officials and national representatives in Washington. Join others who are involved and active. Organize a group and ask others to join. Write a song, an article, a book. Or make a film.

The key is believing that change for the better is possible. That poverty can be reduced, that war isn’t inevitable, that healthcare is the right of all citizens, that global warming is reversible, that all of us, rich or poor, black or white, straight or gay, man or woman, are equal. America was launched on that idealism. That’s who we are as a nation. That is our noble heritage.

Believe that things can be better, and you are already empowered. Use that power.

This film competition, FYI Film Your Issue, asks you to think about what matters to you, and express it, using film. These films have the potential to be seen by millions. Consider the power of your ideas, to influence and change minds and hearts. You have that power. That’s the power and beauty of democracy: your voice matters.

One voice can change many lives. Your voice can change lives.  We're listening.

Walter Cronkite

December 2005

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