Aug 232009
Authors: Tom Newsom

Welcome back, CSU. You are the leaders of tomorrow. I’m 51, but it seems like only yesterday that I started my senior year of college in 1979. The 30 years have gone by very fast. And guess what students: the next 30 years are yours.

Your mission: invent the future. It’s going to be incredibly exciting, thrilling, challenging, unpredictable, disruptive, fulfilling, fun and scary.

When I was in school, there were no PCs, no cell phones, no Internet and ESPN had just come onto the few TVs connected to cable (not satellite TV). The Colorado Rockies were a hockey team in 1979, and America had 225 million of the 4.4 billion people in the world.

There were no women on the U.S. Supreme Court and gasoline had just soared to a record 90 cents per gallon after the Iranian overthrow of the Shah.

In the past 30 years, a lot has changed. In the next 30, even more will change. It’s going to happen. And no one can tell you exactly what it will look like. Scary, eh?

Well, your best bet for dealing with this change is to make it happen. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” as Gandhi once famously said.

You don’t have to do it all. You can build on the work of many others, and you can make a difference.

The U.S. military built the Internet Protocol to survive a nuclear attack. Then a couple of universities figured out how to use this foundation to share information around the world. Soon came many entrepreneurs, many no older than CSU students, who tried innovative new applications of this technology.

Many came and went, but each built on the previous work with a small spark of insight, which solved a new problem, created a new possibility, or made life a little easier. You can do the same.

What are the opportunities of the future? Who knows? Use your imagination. For instance, the human genome has just been mapped within the last decade. Imagine the possibilities for healthcare, nutrition, sports and more.

Bring us new energy sources. We are making diesel fuel from algae right here in Fort Collins and we’re building huge wind turbines near us as well. Imagine the new energy economy that can emerge as we apply the possibilities of renewable energy to the world’s insatiable demand for new toys and tools.

There are almost seven billion people in the world now. They need food, energy and other essentials. This is a challenge. But, the market for virtually every product is more than 50 percent larger than it was in 1979. And it will continue to grow in the future. This is an opportunity.

It’s not just technology. Hey business majors, the most successful companies of the last decade, like eBay and Google, invented a new business model. What is the next one? Invent it.

We need innovation in the political process. Perhaps it’s not “no government” vs. “government motors” as the only choices. You can invent a new, third way of thinking about the role of government in safeguarding citizens without “owning everything.”

Whatever your field of interest may be, follow your passion and invent a piece of this future. How about the agriculture majors helping us find delicious, healthy crops? And you philosophy majors —- we might need some help in coping with this rapidly changing world without losing our feeling of worth. Any ideas?

Interior designers, can we get more functional and aesthetically pleasing homes without wrecking the planet? I think so.

My son starts as a freshman at CSU this month, along with 4,000 other future leaders. Think about the world you will live in 30 years from now. Then go invent it.

Tom Newsom is a Fort Collins resident and a retired electronics industry executive. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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