He stood alone in the room, the last words of his speech cut off by the crash of a neglected door swinging shut on the lecture hall.
“It’s getting better,” he finished in quiet defeat.
Doctor Larry M. Northrup hadn’t expected his lecture to be popular, or even well received. He knew that his thesis flew in the face of what everyone expected, but still he presented it. The original paper had passed peer review – not without significant rebuttal and critique – so Dr. Northrup had submitted it to the World Association of Journalists and Broadcasters for their annual conference. Not only was he surprised to be accepted, but thrilled to be given a chance to deliver the keynote address.
In the months leading up to the conference Dr. Northrup went over every detail of the presentation. He contracted professional slide designers to give him the best visuals possible – he used the same people that produced slides for Steve Jobs and Al Gore. He checked and rechecked his peer-reviewed data, searching for any flaw. He could find none. It was a beautiful, inspiring, reasonable, uplifting presentation and he would deliver it to the very people who needed to hear it most.
He decided to start with the big picture and then move to the specifics.
“Today in history,” Northrup began his lecture, “is the safest time in the history of the world. There is less disease, famine, hunger, and war than any other point in human history.”
The audience shifted in their seats and looked like bored high school freshmen hoping to avoid homework over a long weekend.
Dr. Northrup felt the sweat start to form on his upper lip and between his shoulder blades. But he continued, “By every measurable, objective statistic the world is better today than it was five years ago and far better than it was even twenty years ago. You can see here that murder rates have dropped considerably. Violent crime is down. Drug abuse is down. Violence against women is down.
“Or look here,” he switched slides to show a graph with lines climbing every higher, “education is improving, life expectancy is increasing, quality of life is up, income is up—“
An interruption came from a particularly dour-faced man in a gray suit, “What’s that line going down?”“Ah, yes, I’m glad you pointed that out,” Northrup adjusted his glasses and clicked to the next slide, “Here you can see the one positive indicator that has been consistently going down.”
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