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WHAT TO TELL YOUR CHILDREN?   (Lloyd L., January 15, 2008)

I just completed another distressing telephone call with my only son – 20 years old – who is living away from home for the first time. We have these calls frequently, as we used to have face-to-face chats when he was still in residence at home. He is reasonably intelligent, affable, and at times even slightly ambitious. However, he is at the moment adrift – working a little, taking a couple classes at a community college. We have many discussion about his (our) future, which he finds a bit daunting in outlook.

It occurred to me that I have no idea how many of this blog’s readers/contributors are in my situation: aging (I am 70), with a young offspring (20), in a world where so much of what I was led to believe and trust in is either already “kaput” or challenged on a daily basis. My son often can crystallize this rather handily:

“… why put yourself through an expensive, perhaps useless college education that seems largely designed to maintain jobs for the faculty and administrators? How does one make an intelligent career educational decision even if you want to play this game?”

“… why is there so much fraud in our “civilized” world? Why does our system of government seem to reward greed and fraud as much as good works?”

“…why are there so many barriers to really getting into the career mode? Our relatives in Europe seem to have more options. Where are the great vocational schools like they have?”

“… why is there so much criticism of the military, who are obviously taking the place of those criticizing, who will not serve? They do not make the decisions to continue these adventures.”

“… is there any future for young people in the sense that many of their parents lived rather securely?

And so on.

Before any of you shrug this stuff off as “yeah, we all hear that”, let me suggest that it is quite a bit more focused when it is your own flesh and blood wondering aloud whither we go. For my son, making any decision at this point to try to achieve some college educational goal is a BIG DEAL. He has learning difficulties. This reduces his confidence. He realizes that serious money is involved to finish at most institutions. When he thinks of various options, he wonders what the “payoff” will be. When I was his age, I was in the military, marking time and maturing, since I had nothing better to think about. And it was – as it is for many – beneficial and a personal growth period. But today’s “mercenary” military does not have the appeal to many young people that it once did.

Now, I am no pampered fellow of privilege. Raised in the swamps of Louisiana, oldest of BIG family, service in Marines, worked through college, self-taught (more or less) in a chosen profession, which involved global consulting work. A few bucks in assets. Fair health. Grateful to have that. So, I have ample experience and “street smarts” in the sense that it makes me very wary of the current environment. But that does not help me guide my son today. Trying to find a balance between excessive caution and optimistic stupidity is really hard work. It is wearing me down, I admit.

As I look at the chaos so far surrounding the national race for the leadership of our nation, I find myself (for the first time, I think) truly praying for a real leader. One that can face down some of the devils at hand and stimulate in the people a true sense of “togetherness” that is not so much social, as it is functional. Like a great sports team where the members do not all like each other, but find a common goal in competing.

Am I optimistic that our process at work now will produce this leadership? Certainly not. As I look at what we have institutionalized in our “Congress”, I am even more despondent. But I have hopes.

I enjoy the writings of David Kennedy of the Stanford faculty. For those interested in how difficult it might be to restructure our national economic being, I recommend “Freedom from Fear” – two volumes – divided into The Great Depression and The War 1939-1945. Available in various formats. Terrific reduction in some of the myths surrounding the FDR programs and the resultant changes in US society, the economy and our government.

And reading about David Kennedy one day I stumbled upon this bright young man’s web writing. Hard to read at first, but well worth it. Make sure you read the comments following the short actual piece. There is a lot to ponder here.

For more on a wide array of other topics, please visit the weblog.


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