What kind of world are we leaving younger generations? Manhattan teenager Josh Rittenberg says all parents worry about their children’s futures. But he believes he and his peers will see a better world.
I’m 16. On a recent night, while I was busy thinking about important social issues, like what to do over the weekend and who to do it with, I overheard my parents talking about my future. My dad was upset – not the usual stuff that he and Mom and, I guess, a lot of parents worry about like which college I’m going to, how far away it is from home and how much it’s going to cost. Instead, he was upset about the world his generation is turning over to mine, a world he fears has a dark and difficult future – if it has a future at all. He sounded like this:
“There will be a pandemic that kills millions, a devastating energy crisis, a horrible worldwide depression and a nuclear explosion set off in anger.”
As I lay on the living room couch, eavesdropping on their conversation, starting to worry about the future my father was describing, I found myself looking at some old family photos. There was a picture of my grandfather in his Citadel uniform. He was a member of the class of 1942, the war class. Next to his picture were photos of my great-grandparents, Ellis Island immigrants. Seeing those pictures made feel a lot better. I believe tomorrow will be better than today – that the world my generation grows into is going to get better, not worse. Those pictures helped me understand why.
I considered some of the awful things my grandparents and great-grandparents had seen in their lifetimes: two world wars, killer flu, segregation, a nuclear bomb. But they saw other things, too, better things: the end of two world wars, the polio vaccine, passage of the civil rights laws. They even saw the Red Sox win the World Series – twice.
I believe that my generation will see better things, too – that we will witness the time when AIDS is cured and cancer is defeated; when the Middle East will find peace and Africa grain, and the Cubs win the World Series – probably, only once. I will see things as inconceivable to me today as a moon shot was to my grandfather when he was 16, or the Internet to my father when he was 16.
Ever since I was a little kid, whenever I’ve had a lousy day, my dad would put his arm around me and promise me that “tomorrow will be a better day.” I challenged my father once, “How do you know that?” He said, “I just do.” I believed him. My great-grandparents believed that, and my grandparents, and so do I.
As I listened to my Dad talking that night, so worried about what the future holds for me and my generation, I wanted to put my arm around him, and tell him what he always told me, “Don’t worry Dad, tomorrow will be a better day.” This, I believe.
Josh Rittenberg is a junior at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Manhattan where he plays baseball and guitar, and sings tenor in an a cappella group. Inspired by “Law and Order," Rittenberg co-founded his school’s Mock Trial Club. Newsday recently published an essay he wrote about excessive homework.
Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.
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