August 20, 2014
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Balancing activism with academics Miscellaneous

teach-in-weblogoI came of age during the Reagan Revolution. Following the failed economic policies of the 1970s, Americans were anxious to be release from the burdens of big government and its regulations. President Reagan’s policies of tax relief, particularly for high earners, really resonated with the public—particularly young adults.

I didn’t quite get it. Maybe it’s because I’m the product of depression-era parents, but my more “liberal” philosophies often put me at odds with most of my friends in college. That whole “trickle down” thing didn’t make a lot of sense to me. But when Gordon Gekko from the 1987 film Wall Street uttered, “Greed is good,” my generation responded, and they did pretty well for themselves. But more than 20 years later, look where it’s got us.

Now, please understand, I’m not intending this as some kind of lecture—rather it’s an observation on the generation that follows mine. Today’s young adults seem well positioned to learn from our mistakes. I see it in their commitment to equality for all and a desire to leave behind a better world for generations that follow.

Yesterday’s National Teach-In on Global Warming provided me some insight on that. Whether or not you believe climate change is manmade, you have to appreciate the desire of young people to limit waste in our society and to create more sustainable practices. But there is also an understanding that sustainability doesn’t preclude today’s college students from enjoying a lucrative and personally fulfilling future.

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure to accompany Nevin Byrd and Gregory Koberger on a visit to the R News TV studio for an interview previewing RIT’s Teach-In activities. Both third-year students at RIT, Nevin and Gregory were active in organizing aspects of the Teach-In and were kind enough to accept my invitation to participate in the interview. While driving, I so enjoyed hearing about their ability to balance activism with academics. In addition, both of them are coming off very successful co-ops that no doubt will enhance their career prospects.

Exploring the Teach-In displays and demonstrations that dominated the Student Alumni Union lobby and cafeteria, I couldn’t help but be struck by the contrast. This kind of effort was so “fringe” in my day.

So, under President Obama, there’s no telling how an apparent shift in priorities will play out over the long haul. Probably best if I let Nevin and Gregory offer that evaluation some 20 years from now.

 

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