I believe in my generation. I am 26 years old and have found that my entire world has been defined, as all Americans’, by the events of 9/11. Coming of age in the ‘90s, I came to believe that all of the big fights were behind us. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that people didn’t struggle. I knew that racism, sexism, and poverty were still very much alive, but I felt I lived in a country where safety and security would always be assured.
Things have changed and my thoughts drift, not toward the future, but toward the past. It may seem a bit selfish, but I can’t help wondering what my generations contributions will ultimately be to this country, the war on terrorism, international diplomacy, the environment and other of the pantheon of issues before us today. I think of the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Great Depression, World Wars I and II and the Civil Rights Movement and I ponder what our path will be.
All of these great conflicts and tragedies contain a cast of heroic characters. In school, U.S. History is presented in a way that presents these men and women in a light of ethereal infallibility. They always knew the right path and never compromised. Their stories were like American versions of the Greco-Roman myths of old. It wasn’t until later examination revealed the true internal battles these icons fought that I realized they were just people, too. They possessed the full range of weaknesses, misconceptions and character flaws common to us all. I came to understand that leadership sometimes is compromise and that the inability to recognize your faults is not a sign of courage, but a lack thereof. Sometimes courage is knowing when to back down and allow cooler heads to prevail.
There will come a time when brothers and sisters of my generation must take the lead. Living in a free society, ideally, means that each successive group of young people comes to the forefront with new eyes, ears and hearts. There will always be struggle. It is our nature to fight against the things that are contrary to our way of thinking. To deny this is to deny what makes us fundamentally human. Nevertheless, it is my fondest belief that the future may yet hold the greatest days for our nation and the world and that our children will know the safety and security that I once did.
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