Our culture seems to be spinning out of control and our politicians appear to be insensible to the plight we're in. I'm a young person who wants my life to make a difference in the lives of others, I want our time on earth to count for something, I want to exert a positive influence on society and make it better, yet I have no idea how to do these things. What advice can you offer?
Dear Need Help,
There are lots of things I'd like to say, lots of things that I wish I had learned earlier in life than I did, but I'll limit myself to four:
1. Get all the education you can (especially history, literature, science and philosophy). Learn as much as you can about the issues at stake, even the ones you're not particularly interested in. Read the stuff written by people with whom you disagree so that you better understand them and can respond to them more effectively. Know so much more than anyone else that people recognize and respect your expertise and defer to it even if they don't want to agree with you.
2. Make a conscious effort to educate others, either in your family, church or school. Letters to local papers are helpful, especially in response to controversial matters.
3. Learn to be sensitive, humble and irenic. Don't force your opinions on others or be otherwise pushy and obnoxious. A good listener is often more effective than a good arguer.
4. Whatever career you pursue resolve to make your personal and professional life an example of how a life should be lived. Your life is the best argument you can make. No other argument will have any weight at all if your life does not reflect what you say you believe.