Robert L. Kelly


On his book The Fifth Beginning: What Six Million Years of Human History Can Tell Us about Our Future

Cover Interview of April 25, 2017

A close-up

On the first page of The Fifth Beginning, I recount an incident from the late 1980s, early in my teaching career. I had given a closing lecture in which I tried to provide students with a reason to be optimistic about the future.

One student, a young man who had been attentive all semester, disappointed me when he dejectedly stated, “this is the way things always have been, and this is the way things always will be.”

An older African-American woman came to my rescue. She said, “My father was born in slavery.” She explained how that was true, and pointed out that she herself had lived through Jim Crow, KKK lynchings, and the civil rights movement. “Things do change,” she said. But my student didn’t believe her.

I wrote The Fifth Beginning to convince him, and others like him, to approach the future with their eyes open, but also with enthusiasm for what it could be. It could be humanity’s finest hour.