"When we come together, when we put aside petty difference, when we cooperate, the results are astounding," author Fareed Zakaria told Harvard graduates yesterday in his commencement address.

As a new crop of young minds steps out of the classroom and into the real world, it's only fitting that we take a moment to remember the profound sacrifices made by those who have fought to preserve the things we hold most dear, and remind ourselves of the lessons of past generations.

Living in the age of technology, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the world's problems. We're more connected to each other, so we feel the collective successes and failures of the larger, globalized community more acutely. And, because humans are wired to remember pain and fear more than happiness it's easy to feel like we're fighting an uphill battle against poverty and conflict.

But in his speech, Zakaria reminds us of our successes and just how far we've come. Here are some key takeaways:

The number of people who have died as a result of war, civil war and terrorism is down 99% from World War II. The world we live in today is at peace in a way that we have never experienced.

In the last 50 years, poverty has been reduced more than in the previous 500 years.

In the last 40 years, the number of college graduates has increased four times for men and seven times for women.

We live in an astonishing age of progress -- but that progress is a product of our willingness to face our challenges head on and learn from our wins and losses. The same technology that can make us feel overwhelmed can also allow us to collectively find new and inventive solutions.

For those of you who're interested, check out Zakaria's speech below:

This Memorial Day, we're honoring those who lost their lives by remembering how their sacrifices have contributed to the world we live in -- and the unique power and responsibility we each have to change the world.

How are you celebrating Memorial Day? Tell us at blog@kiva.org.

Photo courtesy of Jeffery Turner.
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