Every generation looks back on the mistakes of the past with a mixture of confusion, sorrow, anger and shame. Every generation sees things that its parents, grandparents and great-grandparents could not see, and sits in judgment of them.
Standing here in 2013, we have much to reflect on.
We look back to the days before the civil rights movement, and we ask ourselves, "Why did it take so long to fix something that was so obviously broken?"
We look back to the days before women won the right to vote, and we ask ourselves, "What was wrong with the world back then, and why did it take so long for things to change?"
In many different ways, across many different issues, we look back...and we find it hard to understand why people in the past so often failed to do the right thing. We wonder why they were so slow to correct their terrible mistakes.
In many different ways, across many different issues, we think we have the privilege of feeling superior. We get to stand here in the modern world, pretending like we've figured it all out, pretending like we don't have our own mistakes to be ashamed of.
But we haven't figured it all out, have we? Because if we had, if we didn't have our own mistakes to be ashamed of, we wouldn't be here today…marking this tragic anniversary, this day when, one year ago, 20 children and 7 adults were senselessly murdered by gunfire in the town of Newtown, Connecticut.
No, in the face of such undeniable facts...we don't get to pretend, and we don't get to feel superior.
True maturity is what happens when we remember that, in the eyes of the future, we will be the ones who failed. We will be the ones THEY look back on, wondering why we didn't get it right.
What will our great-grandchildren say to us then? They will ask what we did to prevent the tragedy at Sandy Hook from happening. They will ask why we failed. They will ask how any society could tolerate the kind of violence that takes children from their parents and threatens the innocence of childhood.
They will demand to know what lessons we learned, and what actions we took.
What will we say to them? How will we answer the children of the future, when it is their turn to sit in judgment of us?
And how will they ever forgive us, if we don't find a way to correct the mistakes that made this massacre possible, if we don't do everything in our power to prevent the next one from happening?
For that alone can make us worthy of forgiveness.
27 empty chairs, representing each of the victims that lost their lives one year ago today in Newtown.