See all that you can see

By Michael Kaplan

Do you remember that scene at the end of “The Truman Show” when Jim Carrey must choose between the calm waters and blue sky of his faux world or the shadowed threshold that leads to the real world? He must choose between a life scripted and a real life on the outside.

For many of us seniors, we realize we stand in Truman’s footsteps, staring at that shadowed threshold. But the truth is we are always standing there. We always have a choice to remain complacent and stay where we are or challenge the status quo and stepout of our comfort.

Choice can be a powerful thing. Just ask Dean Jason Honsel. He made the choice to leave the Northeast for sunny California five years ago. Coming straight from Lehigh University, Honsel knew as many people in Los Angeles as I know at Lehigh. He made a choice to travel cross-country, away from his family, because he saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

Now, he has students and faculty streaming into his office every period of every day. He coaches basketball and his daughter Zoe is one of the most recognizable toddlers on campus. He even let me ride his Vespa despite possible legal implications. Honsel didn’t wait around and let the world come to him and now means the world to some students. And now he’s doing it again — getting up and going because he sees the opportunity and he’s going to take it.

Many of my friends have heard me rip the Los Angeles private school establishment that extends out approximately 10 miles in all directions from Mulholland Drive.

“Stop spewing your philosophical bull,” they say to me, yet I persist. I tend to condescend to those who rarely venture south of 90049, east of 90210, or north of Ventura Boulevard.

Sheltered, I think is the word I’m looking for. We are the “future leaders of this country” and ninety percent of us have spent a combined ten minutes doing actual community service this year.

Right now, the tag “future leaders” is unsubstantial and empty. We cannot be “future leaders” until we can be present leaders. And I don’t mean just acquiring leadership titles for college application purposes.

We need to choose to see a society that is bursting at the seams and see a planet that could one day be a shell of its former self. If you looked, you can see it all around us from the smog hovering over Riverside County to the poverty-stricken, gang-ridden streets of Harbor Gateway. To really lead we need to choose to see that which lies beyond 3700 Coldwater.

And so I sit here writing like I have been all year, not trying to condescend to you, but trying to urge you to open your eyes for one final time, the only way I know how.

I wanted to let you know that there’s a world outside of Starbucks’ reach. A world where money doesn’t necessarily talk and you can get more joy from helping someone less fortunate or developing an intrapersonal relationship than you could from an iPhone or an Xbox. A world where beauty does not come from an $80,000 car, but a good laugh with your friends while paddling on a pristine lake in a 30-year old Alumnacraft canoe.

So make a choice. Get up and go. Instead of buying a plasma television, backpack in a foreign country over the summer. Take a road trip. Take a gap year. Actually do community service. We need to step outside the comforts of the Harvard-Westlake establishment and see the beauty in the world. Only then will we be able to see a world corrupting.

Like Brown Series Speaker Art Woolf said a couple of weeks ago, you’re only on this earth for a short period of time, why not see all that you can? Yeah, it can be dark and scary, but to really lead, we need to see what we are destined to save, we need to see it all. The good, bad and ugly. Truman and I will meet you there.

“In case I don’t see you — good evening, good afternoon, and good night.”