Winning Entry, Massey Lectures contest

Margaret MacMillan’s 2015 CBC Massey Lectures were about people who have left a mark on their own time, and on ours. Inspired by the lectures, listeners were asked: Who you think will be most remembered fifty years from now? Who will have the greatest impact on our times, and on the future? 

We love firsts, and we have a habit of committing them to both our personal and cultural memories. No one remembers the second man to step on the moon, or to circumnavigate the globe, or whoever might have sailed the ocean blue in 1493 …

The next big first, it seems, could well be a human mission to Mars, and whomever sets foot there first is quite likely alive right now. If Barak Obama and Charles Bolden’s suggestion of 2030 as the year we place the first footprint on the red planet, then the person who puts it there is certainly alive now. I’d like to think that she’s a girl, busily looking at bugs, or painting a picture of a flower. I’d like her to be a person of colour, any colour at all, but whichever colour it is, when her portrait is placed on the wall the other firsts, I hope she broadens our sense of who we are, all of us, down here on earth. I hope that, unlike the people that we see these days clamouring to go to Mars, she won’t approach the mission cynically: she’ll want to go, and she’ll want to come home, too. She’ll know that it’s not just about where we go, it’s also about connecting with where we come from, rather than thumbing our nose at it. I hope that she’ll distinguish herself a bit from the other firsts, approaching hers with grace and humility rather than bravado and hubris, and that we’ll have cause to remember her not just for what she did but also for the way in which she did it.

She’s out there somewhere. I hope. If so, then she’s the one that we’ll remember, and we’ll all be the richer for it. ♦

—Glen Herbert


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