They say our children are our future. If there were ever a statement more facile and less stupidly true, it would have to be: the future is our future. But because our children are our future, it was tempting to do a little crystal-ball gazing yesterday.
But first, a shameless plug today, the Norwalk Reflector will be debuting video on its Web site. True, we had one or two videos on the site before it was redesigned at the beginning of this year, so it's more of a triumphant return.
In any case, this time it's different. The one or two videos last year were some we just sort of stumbled into. We're now doing it on purpose.
I hope the twelve of you (a number that includes my wife) that read this column will check it out. We're pretty excited about it even if I forgot, in the years since what I laughingly refer to as my "film career," how unbelievably long video editing takes.
I also forgot just how evil Sony is.
But enough about my problems.
I haven't been to a high school graduation since my own.
Still, things haven't really changed much. What I remember principally is that my mortar board (or motor boat, as we called it in kindergarten. By the way, why do graduates wear a mortar board on their heads anyway? Is it to symbolize that it's now time to go out and get a job and that for all that we're now all educated we're still going to be laying bricks? If that's the case, then maybe we should update the symbol. It's a little old-fashioned. These days, it should be a big venti, I think they call it Starbucks coffee cup...) anyway, my mortar board would not stay on my head.
This is likely because my head is kind of pointy a fact which is usually disguised by my poofy hair.
I also remember planning to be a lot more successful ten years out than I am now.
But that optimism that bright-eyed, nive optimism was all over the place yesterday. Standing through two different commencement ceremonies was like getting water-boarded by optimism.
Every one of the students that spoke talked about how the future will be what we make of it. It was an interesting change of pace for me one week before, I was at a dinner party where the host, a highly respected attorney, opined that America has peaked. Another highly respected attorney and I discussed the current generation of graduates. Apparently "Fortune" ran an article recently about what a self-important, molly-coddled generation this one is.
What made a particularly large impression on my friend (attorney 2) was the description of this generation in the workplace. They have little respect for the years of experience of others. Immediately after starting at a new company, they are ready to assume the following: Everything their elders have done is wrong, and they can do it right.
And look at the world. Maybe these kids are right.
As to whether that means America has peaked that all depends on whether you see success as a zero-sum game. If you think that all gains are relative, then we probably have. China and India have more people. Therefore they have larger potential economies. All that's been holding them back is politics.
But if you believe that our progress is only measured against ourselves, then we haven't necessarily peaked, and what those graduates said yesterday is true: the future is what we make of it.
Still, America will continue its downward spiral if each of us pursues his individual dreams on his own, without interest in or respect for his community. And of the five students I listened to yesterday, only one spoke in the broader terms of citizenship.
But one is better than none.