The Best Generation

Howard G. Spalding - Mt. Vernon, New York
Broadcast during the 1950s
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For more than a quarter of a century, I have worked with young people as a high school principal. This has been a rich and varied experience. From it, I have derived beliefs regarding human nature and the relation of the individual to society which I hold with conviction, and from which I derive strength and inner satisfaction.

I believe that deep within each of us there is a spark of intelligence and creative talent which is, in the truest sense, divine. This creative intelligence manifests itself in countless ways. All the inventions of our vastly complex technology, all the books on our library shelves, all the organizations of our intricate society, are a product of it. Each of us possesses abilities to create—often much greater than we suspect. In fact, few of us even closely approach the limits of our potential development. If I exercise my talents, I derive the deep satisfactions that accompany personal growth. If I neglect to use my creative intelligence, I do so at my own peril, inviting stagnation, frustration, and decay.

Deep within each of us there is also another spark of divine origin. It is this spark which causes us, by nature, to make right moral judgments and to sense things of the spirit. Many wise decisions can be made by using our intelligence. It is my belief that my creator intended that I should use my mind to the utmost. But being human, I can sense more than I can know; I can believe more than I can prove. As a plant seeks the light because it is its nature to do so, man seeks that which is good because decency is inherent in his nature. Just as I must exercise my creative abilities or lose them, so I must cultivate my abilities to make right, ethical and moral judgments and to respond to spiritual influences, or I will become callous, insensitive, and spiritually dead.

I believe that personal happiness results from the use of our intelligence and creative abilities in the service of others. Those of us who work with young people are fortunate, for the opportunity for service is ever present. As I look about the world today, I can find sufficient evidence to serve as grounds either for complete pessimism or for very hopeful optimism. It has seemed to me that the really effective people I have known have all been optimists. I try, with some success, to be one. The effort is made easier by my association with young people. Their zest for living, their buoyant spirit, and their hopeful outlook on life make it difficult for one to be a pessimist in their company.

During all of the years that I have worked with young people, I have heard them criticized on many counts. My experience has, I think, made me about as well aware of their shortcomings as anyone could be. Yet, I am convinced that the young people now in our schools—in keenness of intellect, in soundness of purpose, and in intelligent loyalty to democratic ideals—are the best generation this nation or any nation has produced. In this belief, I find the greatest hope for the future.