When I entered high school at the all-knowing age of fourteen, I was struck by one thing: how little my peers cared about the outside world and what affected it on a larger scale. Oh, they cared what the bell curves were in the classroom assigned by a particular teacher, or whether our football team was headed for another dismal 2-15 season. But most could not name our new Vice President or accurately describe what the electoral college actually did.
Ever since I was very young, I’ve heard the old saw ‘our children are the future.’ For the last eight years or so, since that freshman year in high school, I’ve been disturbed by the inevitability of that phrase. Now that I’m a husband and the father of an infant son, I realize that my generation has not been like the so-called “greatest generation” of World War II, or the baby-boomer generation, or GenX, or any other generation. Until now, the people now aged 20 something have been generally defined by one word: apathy.
But recent events have given me reason to hope. Perhaps you might find this a bit odd, given that we are in the middle of an oil crisis that appears likely to make the seventies look like a mere bump in the road of the commuter nation; that we are currently embroiled in a war that feels more like Vietnam every day, and that for the first time I can remember the economy is going down, not up.
I suppose the reason I’m hopeful is because maybe, just maybe, these circumstances can serve to provide a window of opportunity for all of us. A chance to redeem ourselves, if you will. That basically, we as a country have been pushed to the brink-and in so doing, on the edge of the precipice we now find ourselves, we can finally stand above the overwhelming immediacy of everyday life and see the horizon stretching before us in every direction we care to look.
That hope, however, comes tempered with a little fear. That we can gaze out at the sunrise doesn’t change the fact that we are, once again, teetering on the edge. Without major changes in government, environmental policy and the basic discourse we as individuals carry on between others we disagree with in our society, there is every possibility that instead of reaching for the horizon we will slide into the precipice. But I am hopeful. Hopeful because our nation’s story is composed of situations where the same possibilities, great and terrible, existed. If history is doomed to repeat itself, then it is also destined to. I believe America is a place that cannot exist without extraordinary people to meet the darkest trials. I believe America still exists. And I believe that my generation is finally coming of age.
This I believe.