In the business of politics and elections we regularly engage in supercharged hyperbole…throwing around freely adjectives such as “historic,” “transformational” and handy catch phrases like “this is the most important election of our lifetime.” I will admit that as time goes by it’s easier and easier to bandy about these phrases, often necessary in a hyper-desensitized – resource starved media environment that reacts to little less than conflict, scandal or full on attack.
So when we hear warnings “that the next generation of Americans are doomed to do worse than their parents,” our initial reaction is muted by our cynical experience telling us that it’s just another rhetorical prelude to a partisan political attack. But increasingly I have had this nagging feeling that it’s not hyperbole. That the very nature of American optimism is fundamentally at risk. Too many of my peers have experienced dramatic changes of fortune, darkened outlooks and do legitimately believe that their children will have fewer opportunities, less secure careers and worse they have lost the capacity to dream big dreams for themselves or their kids.
It’s a hard thing to think that your children won’t have a better life — no matter how good your own is – we always want better for them. It’s a worse thing to be forced accept that as the truth and internalize the conclusions that flow from it.
The truth, as always, is somewhere in between.
I was lucky enough to make three new friends last weekend that taught me that my pessimism, my friend’s pessimism is unfounded. They were literally strangers to me at 5, 8 and 11 years old and perhaps an unlikely group to draw inspiration. But individually and collectively, they were wiser, more confident, smarter, funnier, kinder, sweeter – yet more savvy, inquisitive and ready for the world than I was at 17. They are special. (They also got me caught up on pop music, yes “Call me Baby” is still number one and a ‘kiddie size’ ice cream at the amazing Marthas in Queensbury is like a large anywhere else.) But most importantly, they demonstrated a capacity for empathy for those they knew and loved, those they just met and the world around them. They are a tribute to their parents who I barely know but also a telling example of the kind of young individuals American freedoms can still nurture.
There are no small dreams, just small ice creams among this crew.
Our human tendency is to look back and to romanticize the past. We bemoan the loss of the “Greatest Generation,” yet I’m convinced more than ever that the greatest generation is in our midst. These kids are uniquely equipped to deal with the challenges of the modern economy while maintaining the moral compass to lead.
Our job is critical, we just need to not bollocks things up on them so much that they can’t fix them. So yes, this is the most important election of our lifetime — because we shouldn’t make their challenges harder than they have to be. Because they deserve better, because the Greatest Generation of Americans aren’t fading into history — they are among us.
So please excuse a little hyperbole over the next few months, because the stakes are truly high. And thank you so much ladies for restoring my optimism and reminding me why we fight these campaigns so hard.
Updated: My partner Ryan Moses, the proud father of four little girls, most recently Samantha informs me that it’s not “Call Me Baby,” it’s “Call Me Maybe.” You can’t be any more uncool then getting that wrong.