When I think about dreams,
like many of you,
I think about this picture.
I was eight when I watched Neil Armstrong
step off the Lunar Module onto the surface of the Moon.
I had never seen anything like it before,
and I’ve never seen anything like it since.
We got to the Moon for one simple reason:
John Kennedy committed us to a deadline.
And in the absence of that deadline,
we would still be dreaming about it.
Leonard Bernstein said two things
are necessary for great achievement:
a plan and not quite enough time.
Deadlines and commitments
are the great and fading
lessons of Apollo.
And they are what give the word “moonshot” its meaning.
And our world is in desperate need of political leaders
willing to set bold deadlines
for the achievement of daring dreams on the scale of Apollo again.
When I think about dreams,
I think about the drag queens of LA and Stonewall
and millions of other people risking everything
to come out when that was really dangerous,
and of this picture of the White House lit up in rainbow colors,
celebrating America’s gay and lesbian citizens’ right to marry.
It is a picture that in my wildest dreams
I could never have imagined when I was 18
and figuring out that I was gay
and feeling estranged from my country
and my dreams because of it.
I think about this picture of my family
that I never dreamed I could ever have —
and of our children holding this headline
I never dreamed could ever be printed about the Supreme Court ruling.
We need more of the courage of drag queens and astronauts.
But I want to talk about the need for us to dream
in more than one dimension,
because there was something about Apollo
that I didn’t know when I was 8,
and something about organizing that the rainbow colors over.
Of the 30 astronauts in the original Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs,
only seven marriages survived.
Those iconic images of the astronauts bouncing on the Moon
obscure the alcoholism and depression on Earth.
Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk,
asked during the time of Apollo,
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon
if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?”
And what can we gain by the right to marry
if we are not able to cross the acrimony
and emotional distance that so often separates us from our love?
And not just in marriage.
I have seen the most hurtful, destructive,
tragic infighting in LGBT and AIDS
and breast cancer and non-profit activism,
all in the name of love.
Thomas Merton also wrote about wars among saints
and that “there is a pervasive form of contemporary violence
to which the idealist most easily succumbs:
activism and overwork.
The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace.
It destroys our own inner capacity for peace.”
Too often our dreams become these compartmentalized fixations
on some future
that destroy our ability to be present for our lives right now.
Our dreams of a better life for some future humanity
or some other humanity in another country
alienate us from the beautiful human beings sitting next to us
at this very moment.
Well, that’s just the price of progress, we say.
You can go to the Moon
or you can have stability in your family life.
And we can’t conceive of dreaming in both dimensions at the same time.
And we don’t set the bar much higher than stability
when it comes to our emotional life.
Which is why our technology for talking to one another
has gone vertical,
our ability to listen and understand one another
has gone nowhere.
Our access to information is through the roof,
our access to joy, grounded.
But this idea, that our present and our future are mutually exclusive,
that to fulfill our potential for doing we have to surrender
our profound potential for being,
that the number of transistors on a circuit can be doubled and doubled,
but our capacity for compassion and humanity and serenity and love
is somehow limited
is a false and suffocating choice.
Now, I’m not suggesting
simply the uninspiring idea of more work-life balance.
What good is it for me to spend more time with my kids at home
if my mind is always somewhere else while I’m doing it?
I’m not even talking about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is all of a sudden becoming a tool for improving productivity.
I’m talking about dreaming
as boldly in the dimension of our being
as we do about industry and technology.
I’m talking about an audacious authenticity
that allows us to cry with one another,
a heroic humility that allows us to remove our masks and be real.
It is our inability to be with one another,
our fear of crying with one another, that gives rise to so many
of the problems we are frantically trying to solve in the first place,
from Congressional gridlock to economic inhumanity.
I’m talking about what Jonas Salk called an Epoch B,
a new epoch in which we become as excited about and curious about
and scientific about the development of our humanity
as we are about the development of our technology.
We should not shrink from this opportunity
simply because we don’t really understand it.
There was a time when we didn’t understand space.
Or because we’re more used to technology and activism.
That is the very definition of being stuck in a comfort zone.
We are now very comfortable imagining unimaginable technological achievement.
In 2016, it is the dimension of our being itself
that cries out for its fair share of our imagination.
Now, we’re all here to dream,
but maybe if we’re honest about it,
each of us chasing our own dream.
You know, looking at the name tags to see who can help me with my dream,
sometimes looking right through one another’s humanity.
I can’t be bothered with you right now. I have an idea for saving the world.
Years ago, once upon a time, I had this beautiful company
that created these long journeys for heroic Civic Engagement.
And we had this mantra:
“Human. Kind. Be Both.”
And we encouraged people to experiment outrageously with kindness.
Like, “Go help everybody set up their tents.”
And there were a lot of tents.
“Go buy everybody Popsicles.”
“Go help people fix their flat tires
even though you know the dinner line is going to get longer.”
And people really took us up on this,
so much so that if you got a flat tire on the AIDS ride,
you had trouble fixing it, because there were so many people there asking you
if you needed help.
For a few days, for tens of thousands of people,
we created these worlds
that everybody said were the way they wish the world could always be.
What if we experimented with creating that kind of world
these next few days?
And instead of going up to someone and asking them, “What do you do?”
ask them, “So what are your dreams?”
or “What are your broken dreams?”
You know, “TED.” Tend to Each other’s Dreams.
Maybe it’s “I want to stay sober”
or “I want to build a tree house with my kid.”
You know, instead of going up to the person everybody wants to meet,
go up to the person who is all alone
and ask them if they want to grab a cup of coffee.
I think what we fear most
is that we will be denied the opportunity to fulfill our true potential,
that we are born to dream
and we might die without ever having the chance.
Imagine living in a world
where we simply recognize that deep, existential fear in one another
and love one another boldly because we know
that to be human is to live with that fear.
It’s time for us to dream in multiple dimensions simultaneously,
and somewhere that transcends all of the wondrous things
we can and will and must do
lies the domain of all the unbelievable things we could be.
It’s time we set foot into that dimension
and came out about the fact that we have dreams there, too.
If the Moon could dream,
I think that would be its dream for us.
It’s an honor to be with you.
Thank you very much.