STEVE INSKEEP, host:
On Mondays, our series This I Believe, brings you statements of personal belief, many of them submitted by people like you. Today, our essay comes from Josh Rittenberg, a junior at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in New York City. Here's our series curator, independent producer, Jay Allison.
JAY ALLISON reporting:
For our series, we are receiving thousands of essays from young people. Some are searching for belief, some have found it, and some, like Josh Rittenberg, are trying out the beliefs of others, notably, their parents, to see how they fit. Here is Josh Rittenberg with is essay for This I Believe.
Mr. JOSH RITTENBERG: I'm 16. The other night, while I was busy thinking about important social issues, like what to do over the weekend and who to do it with, I overheard my parents talking about my future. My dad was upset. Not the usual stuff that he and mom and, I guess a lot of parents, worry about, like which college I'm going to, how far away it is from home, and how much it's going to cost. Instead, he was upset about the world his generation's turning over to mine: a world he fears has a dark and difficult future, if it has a future at all. He sounded like this:
There will be a pandemic that kills millions, a devastating energy crisis, a horrible world-wide depression, and a nuclear explosion set off in anger.
As I lay on my living room couch, eavesdropping on the conversation, starting to worry about the future my father was describing, I found myself looking at some old family photos.
There was a picture of my grandfather in a Citadel uniform. He was a member of the class of 1942, the war class. Next to his picture were pictures of my great-grandparents, Ellis Island immigrants. Seeing those pictures made me feel a lot better.
I believe tomorrow will be better than today, that the world my generation grows into is going to get better, not worse. Those pictures helped me understand why.
I considered some of the awful things my grandparents and great-grandparents had seen in their lifetimes: two world wars, killer flu, segregation, a nuclear bomb. But they saw other things, too. Better things. The end of two world wars, the polio vaccine, passage of the civil rights laws. They even saw the Red Sox win the World Series twice.
I believe that my generation will see better things, too. That we will witness the time when AIDS is cured, and cancer is defeated. When the Middle East will find peace, and Africa grain. And the Cubs win the World Series, probably only once. I will see things as inconceivable to me today as a moon shot was to my grandfather when he was sixteen, or the internet to my father when he was sixteen.
Ever since I was a little kid, like whenever I've had a lousy day, my dad would put his arm around me and promise me that tomorrow will be a better day. I challenged my father once. “How do you know that?” He said, “I just do.” I believed him. My great-grandparents believed that, and my grandparents, and so do I.
As I listen to my dad talking that night, so worried about what the future holds for me and my generation, I wanted to put my arm around him, and tell him what he had always told me. “Don't worry dad. Tomorrow will be a better day.”
This, I believe.
ALLISON: Josh Rittenberg with his essay for THIS I BELIEVE. By the way, he turns seventeen tomorrow.
We are inviting everyone to submit essays to our series, regardless of age. Check npr.org for more information, and to see all the essays in the series along with photographs of the essayists.
For THIS I BELIEVE, I'm Jay Allison.