Wanted: A Great Generation

I may be wrong, but I believe the world is in grave trouble.  I felt this way before our trip, and am more convinced now.  I fear that our nation lacks the wherewithal to make the hard decisions and sacrifices to reverse so many troubling trends.   I fear our generation will be the first in our country’s history to pass on to the next generation a future that’s impaired, not improved.

During this past year, we had a wonderful opportunity to explore the world.  We wanted our trip to be educational, not an extended vacation.  We wanted to see for ourselves the greatness in the world, but also to see its challenges, its sadness, and its horror.  And we did.

We saw nature at its most spectacular.  We saw stunning accomplishments of ancient civilizations.  We saw beautiful cities, remarkable works of art, and advanced technologies.  And we saw the joy and hope in so many people, many of whom live in poverty.  It was inspiring. 

We also saw the unmistakable signs of global warming.  Acute deforestation.   Pollution in places like Beijing, where air quality gets worse by the minute.  The oppression of Tibet.  Indescribably poor townships and villages.  Children growing up without education, struggling to find daily food and water.  Auschwitz.  And the damaged state of our country’s standing abroad.

I was born in 1952.  Elizabeth’s and my parents were part of America’s Greatest Generation.  All four parents sacrificed immensely during World War II, with both fathers in combat and both mothers working in the U.S. to support the war effort.  Their lives have been ones of dedicated sacrifice to make sure their children had a better future.  They succeeded at that goal. 

I am embarrassed that my generation may be the first in our country’s history to hand our children a degraded future.  We’ve swept a pile of dirt the size of Mount Everest under the rug, while the planet is in peril.  It’s like living in a house that’s burning down, while we bicker over whether to watch “American Idol” or “Wife Swap.” 

As I said, I may be wrong.  Why worry about global warming?  Our addiction to foreign oil, in a nation of gas-guzzling SUV’s?  The staggering U.S. debt that threatens our financial underpinning?  Increasing foreign control of our economy, jeopardizing our ability to stand up to atrocity?  The fool’s errand called “Operation Iraqi Freedom” that has poisoned the world’s view of the U.S.?  The accelerating divide between the rich and the poor?  

Sixty-four years ago,  our greatest generation led the way to saving the free world, built the U.S. economy, and re-built Europe.  Now, our government earns the scorn and enmity of people all around the world for our failed foreign policy and our lack of discipline or resolve.   We are on our way to being one of the most irresponsible generation in the world’s history.  In contrast to Saint Luke’s words, “Unto whom much is given, much shall be required,” we have been given much, but just want more. 

What will it take to reverse these trends, to pass on to our children a future better than what we inherited?   Certainly not business as usual.  Not if we continue to focus on our own narrow self interests.  And not without compelling objectives that we achieve through ingenuity, shared sacrifice, and collaboration.  We need, more than ever before, a great generation to step forward, to lead us, and the world, forward to create a better world for the future.

So we are now at end of our ten-month round-the-world journey.  But we also mark the beginning of our next, less-defined journey into the future.  I struggle today to say what impact our trip will have on each of us.  My fervent hope, though, is that it will influence each of us to stretch, to help fight immense challenges, and to begin turning back a tide that threatens to sink our future.

6 Responses to “Wanted: A Great Generation”

  1. Leslie Redd Says:

    Ted, a powerful call to arms for all of us. I look forward to your family’s travels and knowledge enhancing our childrens’ learning experiences. Leslie

  2. Jack Hubbard Says:

    Ted, that’s a nice piece. I agree. I’ll go further. What we need is not cheaper oil but much more expensive oil. What we need is not economic growth, but contraction (or maybe some kind of transformation which I can’t yet envision). What we need is less an increase in the material standard of living of the poor than a decrease for the wealthy (like me). And on and on. But I don’t know what end to grab these issues by! They seem to require stronger measures than a democracy can support. I keep hoping that the environmental threat will become serious enough to prompt dramatic global cooperation and action. So far we’re not even close.

    But we will try, of course, and a vote for Obama is at least a move in the right direction.

    Jack Hubbard

  3. sam Says:

    Sobering thoughts. After the passage of some time, it will be really interesting to hear about how this trip has changed each of you. Welcome home. We’re all so glad that you’re back.

  4. Lolli Leeson Says:

    Hi guys, wonderful letter Ted. You write beautifully. You are right on. You will be pleased to see that the $4.50 gas price is changing the ways of many. I see a lot more economical cars around – just in this last year. I agree, I get happy when the gas prices go up. It is the only way unfortunately to make people change their ways. I have felt for a long time that the tipping point in people changing their ways is $5.00 a gallon. We’ll, be are pretty much at that point. There will be much change for the better in this economy, but also a lot of hurt. The middle class is REALLY pinched right now beyond repair. I agree our ride in the next few years is not going to be pretty unless we can get some HOPE in the White house. So glad you all are back. We will hook up in RI. Lolli

  5. Lynn Says:

    Dear Ted and Family,

    I can’t begin to tell you how much your family has impacted my life. I am so glad that getting to know your family was and is part of Gods plan for my life. I feel so blessed.

    As I read your blog, I can’t help but wipe the tears away from my eyes and my soul. Your words express the deep sadness I too feel for our world we live in. I truly feel that we have all had a part in what the world has become. Not caring for the outcome of our actions no matter what they are. Many of us have allowed our children to live the life that we thought we never had. How sad that we have all bought into this selfish,uncarring,whats in it for me world. (including myself). How do we undo all this? Where do we start? Is it too late? Talking to many people from all kinds of different backgrounds etc. They all are dealing with the same propblems.
    As I get older the things that I found so important have slowly disappeared and I don’t miss the stuff. Perhaps we all need to look outside our comfort zone and see the need to fix the problem we all have created.

    Thank you again for such a wonderful education during your time away.

    His LOVE never Fails
    Lynn and Frank Pugliese

  6. Jeff Bussgang Says:

    Ted – your blog is a great call to arms. But while I agree with your diagnosis, I confess to being optimistic that there exists the will, ingenuity and resources to address these problems in our midst. We indeed require leadership to harness and direct this potential and I hope folks like you and others will step up to provide this leadership in the years ahead. Look forward to speaking to you soon about these issues and more!

Leave a Reply