Students, especially our undergraduate students, you’ve always lived under some kind of crisis.
9/11, the Great Recession, the last four years of turmoil in government, we still have troops overseas fighting wars we started because of . . . 9/11, the killing of George Floyd, climate change, the January 6th insurrection and now this: Covid-19 and the world-wide pandemic. It must be exhausting for you. I know it is for us who are, shall we say, more seasoned in life (translate: old).
The world is not a steady or safe place, it never has been, but it sure does seem like it’s crisis on steroids these past 10 or 20 years. Yet every generation has been dealt a situation they did not want or expect.
For my father it was the Great Depression in the 30’s and then World War II and then the Korean War. That was followed very closely with the Cold War. And for me it started with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, Watergate followed closely by the stock market crash of 1987. Oh, and we were still under the threat of the Cold War too.
The 90’s seemed to settle down a bit but this was the beginning of what we now refer to as our polarized citizenry. President Clinton was impeached and then in 2000 George Bush was declared the winner in an extremely close presidential race by the Supreme Court. As I recall the margin of victory in Florida, which was the deciding state given our Electoral College, was something like 537 votes.
And here you all come into the new century and it’s not much better.
I’m not trying to minimize what might be your feeling that the world is falling apart. While many of the events I point out above were significant, a lot of people were not affected by them. The pandemic however has affected each and every one of us in some way and I think that’s the difference.
I wasn’t drafted in the 70’s so I didn’t go to war but I know people who did. I was only in my early 30’s when the stock market crashed so I had time to recover. By the time the turn of the century came about I was so busy working and raising my small children that while I was affected by those events, I had a lot of other things on my mind and thankfully I was able to lead a somewhat normal life.
I’m not sure that I have an overriding message other than I think those of us who are older and have lived in an unsteady world are just as concerned as you are yet we have always somehow seemed to survive. Maybe that’s my message, I think we’ll be okay. We’ve been in tough places before. What that survival looks like is anyone’s guess but I have to hope that we will figure it out. We have no choice but to hope.