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On the bank of the Ohio River, about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh by car, was once a small town that no one had ever heard of. It had started as an outpost along the frontier at the outset of colonization, named after the chief of a clan of Delaware natives. During the first American Revolution, separatists constructed a fort there that they then named after some general, one of the co-signers of the Declaration of Independence, whose surname Sebastian often confused with Macintosh Apples, which were his favorite. 


Following the end of the war in 1783 and George Washington’s disbandment of the Continental Army, the fort briefly housed the First American Regiment, which eventually became the 3rd US Infantry Regiment, the oldest active unit in the United States Army, as of the time of this recounting. 


Over two centuries later, it’s where Sebastian was born, shortly after President Regan asked Premier Gorbachev to tear down the wall. It's where Sebastian lived out his childhood, the first half of his life until he was 18.


By the time Sebastian came along, Beaver had transformed from a backcountry hamlet of colonists fighting for freedom and democracy into a charming suburban dreamscape that was the soul of America. Third Street might as well have been called Main Street USA. A sleepy, tree-lined boulevard of sorts, it was the center of the town; a daily passing point for all of its residents, where strangers smiled and asked you how your day was when you walked by. It was filled with cafes, ice cream parlors, and the world’s best bakery that served the planet’s tastiest almond torte.


Beaver was the seat of power for the eponymous county surrounding, growing on the backwinds of inter-state commerce over 200 years of development. Barges moved daily up-and-down the river, transporting steel and other goods from the few factories that remained in Pittsburgh all the way to New Orleans, from where they would eventually be ferried to port cities worldwide.


Railroad tracks traced the river’s banks, shipping livestock and grain from farms in the midwest to eateries along the eastern seaboard, a pipeline for feeding the United States’ largest population centers. Traffic on the tracks never ceased. Sebastian fell asleep nightly to the bellowing of trains blowing their horns, a comforting reminder that he wasn’t alone, that there was a beyond.  


Sebastian’s neighbors were good people. They were teachers and preachers, nurses and waiters, shopkeepers and firefighters. The median income was around $40,000. Residents were humble, but hardworking. They went out of their way to help others without even being asked.


Beaver was the type of town where people went to church and tried to do the right thing, and when they failed to do so, would say sorry and do their best to learn from their mistake. People genuinely cared about each other. There was community. 


It was a much, much simpler time and the occasion on this night was extra special. It was a sultry summer’s eve in early June. Cicadas and crickets chirping, you could smell the excitement and the impossibility of possibility in the dank, amber air. It would be decades until anyone really thought about war. It was the night of Sebastian’s high school graduation. 


In the tree-filled backyard of his parent’s house, enclosed by a white picket fence and dozens of tiki torches, was a bazaar of small folding card tables covered in maroon-colored plastic cloths, arranged in a twelve-point, star-shaped formation. Each table was surrounded by four wobbly wooden chairs borrowed from the church basement. On the tables, a standard smorgasbord of local BBQ staples: smoked ribs, charcoal-grilled burgers and brats, beer mac and cheese, homemade chocolate-chip cookies, and a pie comprised of blackberries that Sebastian’s sister had hand-picked from the abandoned farm next door earlier in the morning.


Directly following his graduation ceremony, where Sebastian had delivered the valedictory speech, the party was a bon voyage, a chance for his friends, family, neighbors, parishioners, and teachers to say a final goodbye as he moved onto a new chapter–or scene, if you will. In just a few weeks time, Sebastian would leave home for good.


What is it about hosting a party that evokes such an odd clash of feelings?  


Sebastian hated goodbyes. They were literally his least favorite thing in life. They disproportionately disaffected him for reasons he never fully understood. His emotions were deeper than most.


-I remember before you were born when your parents were debating what to call you. What was the original name you two were thinking?


-Wait, there was never a question, we’ve always loved the name Sebastian. You know, after Saint Sebastian. And sorry, not to change subject, but honey do we need more ice…


Sebastian had heard this story many times before and drifted away from the circle with his parents and choir director to join a new clique. He was working the yard, a milkshake in hand.


Sebastian was thrilled to have people from all parts of his dis-jointed life brought together. He got off on it. It wasn’t so much that he was excited by people being there to celebrate him. It was more that he loved watching others come together who previously had no reason to know each other. New friendships would form. Everyone would become more connected.


At the same time, Sebastian’s social anxiety was acute. Like basically everyone else, he too struggled with rejection and wanting others’ approval. Who didn't show whom he had invited? He wouldn’t check. Mrs. Dalloway wouldn’t have either.




-Today, we face multiple tragic crises, from Syria to Yemen to South Sudan. There are more refugees — 50 million — than at any time since the end of the Second World War. Inequality is growing. Extremism is spreading. At the same time, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.


We are the first generation that can end global poverty. We are the last generation that can prevent WWIII slow global warming. Here are three ways you can lead:

 First - make the choice of service. 

Second - be bold and champion progress. 

Third - listen - listen most of all, to opposing views.

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