Michael Moritz is a 2014 graduate of Staples High School. Now a senior at Ithaca College, he’s a member of its Futures Club. Many Westporters will automatically assume that means money and markets.
Nope. Ithaca’s Futures Club members are social activists who focus on the ideals of empathy, perspective-taking, and mindfulness. Members believe young people have the power to challenge and change the future.
This turbulent summer, Michael reflected on his home town, his college community, and the broader, outside-the-bubble world. He writes:
Growing up here, Staples High School put me and my peers in a position that we never second guessed. It is not until we reach out of our Westport world that we see human life through a new lens.
That is when we notice serious differences in the quality of life across our country. Most families in Westport can afford health care. Yet our new health care system proposed leaving more than 20 million Americans without basic health care plans.
In Westport we have the choice of Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market or nice restaurants on the river. Yet food deserts exist all over our country — places where fresh food and groceries cannot be found.
Staples High School is amazing. But most American public education is not like ours. We should acknowledge American society is wrestling with these institutional imbalances, along with racism, hatred, violent acts and climate destruction — among many other deep-rooted issues we are working through.
I love Westport. Peace and beauty are two words that help me describe my home place.
I acknowledge it represents a very small part of American life. It may hurt to have this conversation, and we might be tempted to turn away from it. But we are privileged — at the expense of most people of our country, who can’t have what we have.
At Staples High School, we did not talk about this elephant in the room. Our facilities are extremely nice. But what about in inner city Bridgeport? And do we care?
I see 2 divides. One is economic. The other is racial. But they work together to create a violent monster of America that privileges a very small percentage of citizens, and leaves the rest in the dust.
The median income for white people in our country is $60,250; for black people it is $35,400. The same study found that 26% of black people live in poverty. The percentage for whites is 10%. In other categories — including household wealth, home ownership and unemployment — whites are also favored.
Then there is human-induced climate destruction to our planet. If we continue using fossil fuels as we do now, all major cities in our country that are anywhere close to water will be under water by 2050. The world is dying way, way faster than any climate change model ever predicted.
Are solar panels just too expensive? As it turns out, we now see a potential plan for panels to be installed at the high school.
If you are struck by this, know that parents and students of Westport can — and in some ways are expected to — change our country, so that all people of all skin colors are included and valued in the quality of life that we enjoy in our privileged bubble.
The way we do that is by being socially active. That is the route through which we can bring justice, equality and inclusion to all parts of our country.
Where does this leave us kids from Westport? Right in the middle of it. Those in the most privileged situations have an amazing amount of influence over how our world will look in the coming years. I’m talking about myself, my friends and you or your children in the Westport public schools.
Here’s what you can do, as a young citizen of Westport and the world: Practice and live empathy, perspective taking and mindfulness. Spend less time on your phone.
The next step: Decide to have a gentle inquiry on what your school and town is doing to make the world a better place. That means asking your school. Call Town Hall. Talk to people until you get to the person you can talk to about whatever issue may be on your mind.
Whether it is “what is Westport doing to cut carbon emissions and become more renewable and sustainable?” or any other issue: Ask. Keep asking.
I will do my part, alongside you.