I haven’t felt this in a long while — change is in the air. The news is full of images of citizens around the world taking to the streets to tell the powers that be that they’re mad as hell and just won’t take it anymore. I’ve always felt lucky that I was in college when the streets filled with people protesting war, racism, sexism. We demanded that decisions made in the name of the American people be based on common sense and the Golden Rule rather than greed and power. The idealism was palatable.

Then it just got hard. We went back to class, got our degrees and started families. Some worked to improve the lives of others, others worked to improve their stock portfolios. It’s easy to just give up and take care of your own, but none of us is on our own; what hurts you, hurts me. The recent earthquake in Japan has made that crystal clear.

For years I’ve begun every school year by displaying big posters that group my students by their common career goals. From the mid-80’s until a couple of years ago, the bulk of my students wanted to go into either Professional Sports or Business. I’d always ask, “What business?” Often the student would reply, “Whatever makes me a lot of money.” So we’d spend the year seeking enlightenment by trying to answer the most basic of questions: “Why were you put on this Earth and what are you going to do about it?”.

In the last couple of years I’ve noticed a change–my students are interested in work that’s not all about them, like teaching, law enforcement, health care. They spend their vacations working for Habitat for Humanity or other volunteer activities. And it’s not just for their college résumés–I get the sense that they think it’s the right thing to do. Power and greed have been exposed for what they are: pathetic attempts to make the weak appear strong. Most of my students’ and colleagues’ families have been harmed by a minority who has no concept of when enough is enough. I think my students are saying, “Enough.”

I hope so. It isn’t that we need to change–we just need to redefine power and success. It’s an exciting time.