To The Graduating Class of 2012:
The World is Waiting for You
© 2012 By Wayne D. Lewis, Sr.
The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors. Plans for the Pony Express were spurred by the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication with the West. The Pony Express consisted of relays of men riding horses carrying saddlebags of mail across a 2000-mile trail. The service opened officially on April 3, 1860, when riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours. The pony riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day.
Eventually, the Pony Express had more than 100 stations, 80 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. The express route was extremely hazardous, but only one mail delivery was ever lost. The service lasted only 19 months until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence.[i]
Good day and thank you for this opportunity to send a message to the Graduating Class of 2012. I thought that if you had never studied in your history books about the Pony Express, that the above brief overview would help you to appreciate this part of American History.
To say that this portion of American history lasted for approximately 19 months is awesome. I say that because it had such a profound affect on American history, that today, America honors the Pony Express era and its contribution with a museum and recognition to the men who created it and to the men who rode over 2000 miles cross-country to ensure communication was maintained between the east and west coast of America during a time of turmoil and war.
Today, we are fortunate, with respect to communications, that we do not have to rely solely on men to ride horses from the east coast to the west coast to get us needed and valuable information. Today, we just need the electronics, the wiring, the engineering, and all of the other infrastructure and logistics that makes getting important information that used to take weeks, now in a matter of seconds to minutes.
If we have studied the evolution of communications, we know that man has always sought the most reasonable and quickest way possible to get information. So obviously, when we discuss the history of our various cultures who used men to run through the jungles, smoke signals, carrier pigeons, trains, planes, boats and whatever have you, we know that information, and the possession of it, was always extremely valuable.
Today, many of you maybe receiving information via email on your cell phones, on your laptops, notepads, desktops, or maybe even your watches. And while you receive this information, it is possible that we all too often forget the gravity of the importance of how that information is transmitted. We may also forget that behind the ease at which we receive this information, are the men and women who are working tirelessly, but not necessarily effortlessly, to ensure that we receive our valued information. No, they are not riding horses across this country, or across the globe. But, they are in a race against time to ensure that we receive our text messages, our emails, and even, our snail mail, as we affectionately refer to it, in a timely manner.
While the Pony Express played a tremendous role in helping to shape the means by which we now receive information, with an emphasis on speed and distance, over 2000 miles, often covered within 10 days, we need to understand how the ease at which we receive information even today is very fragile. Here is what I mean.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. From New Orleans and surrounding areas that were affected, many who had telephone lines, as well as cell phones, could not make connections with family and friends as levees were overtopped and were breached at 5 major points in the City of New Orleans in the aftermath of the storm. [ii]
For no less than one week to a month, many who sought their family members relied upon the Red Cross, local radio stations, and where possible, temporary sites to call out to and locate family members. The need to receive not only valuable information on the whereabouts of family, but on how to begin a rebuilding of one of the nations’ most historic cities (New Orleans and surrounding areas) became crucial. It would eventually come together. How? Because of the men and women who would work tirelessly, but not necessarily effortlessly, to assist in the rebuilding, restoring, and reconnecting of families with families; reconnecting families with businesses; reconnecting businesses with municipalities, and of course, reconnecting municipalities with families. In other words, completing the cycle of communications, was extremely important, and the men and women whom we relied upon in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, were no less important than the men whom America depended upon in the days of the Pony Express.
Like the days of the Pony Express, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many lessons were learned. Lessons that were learned were due to trial and error, as well as the attempts to use antiquated policies that may have been applied to an ideal set of events, that Hurricane Katrina did not represent. But it was the men and women of both events who, with their knowledge, skills and education, were able to say, in essence:
“WE have to find a better way.”
“WE cannot continue to move forward doing what we are doing today in hopes of a better tomorrow.”
“ WE have to change and improve what we are doing for our future.”
To the Graduating Class of 2012, I say to you today, that the world is waiting on you. It is waiting for you to bring to the table new and innovative ideas that will help this world to continue to move forward. And that while many of you remain faceless in your efforts, or that you may even remain nameless in your efforts, know that your contributions to the benefit of society will make a difference. Know that it is not about you, but about the greater good for all mankind. Even as we look back at the three men who started the Pony Express (William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors), they knew that it was not about them, but for the greater good of a cause bigger than themselves. That they worked tirelessly, but not necessarily effortlessly, to ensure that communication would always be available not only for their families, but also for their country.
To you I ask, what will you do to ensure that a cause bigger than yourself will continue so that it may benefit others? I ask you today, as the world awaits your arrival, to look at your diplomas, to look at your degrees, look at your education, and the hard work that you have put into achieve the level of success that you have accomplished thus far. And as you do so, know that your role is a vital one to the success of others, providing of course, you too work tirelessly, if not effortlessly, to ensure that you commit to a cause bigger than yourself.
This is what the world expects of you, and for you to answer the world’s call, you must be willing to put a cause on the table that benefits others more so than yourselves. Are you willing to answer that call? I believe that you are. Further, I believe that you all are extremely well-prepared in making the world a much better place for the future. Now, go out there, because the world cannot wait one day more for what you alone are capable of doing to achieve something greater than yourselves. The world awaits you, and welcomes you as you step out on its world stage.
I commend you all on a job well done, and as always, I wish you the vey best that life has to offer, and congratulations on a magnificent achievement in your lives.
Wayne D. Lewis, Sr.