NAACP leader Julian Bond issued a challenge to UR students during his Jan. 26 speech. He encouraged students to take an active role in changing the world around them. Bond?s words were powerful, but I question to what extent, if any, UR students will act upon his statements.
In contrast to our parents, contemporary college students appear as if they are becoming increasingly less civically involved. Isolated from the outside world, we have become a generation of disillusioned youth. Content with pondering the mysteries of Danforth cuisine, UR students refuse to take any substantial interest in the outside world.
Despite my best efforts, I am a product of this generation. My observations of this situation are all I offer to the contrary.
When compared to our parent?s generation, our flaws are all the more obvious.
On behalf of the United Farm Workers Union, my father Michael Rosenthal was invited to speak to students in 1972. When he was my age he traveled the country, helping to organize underpaid and overworked farm workers.
While I?m now obtaining an education that he never had, I am acting in my best interests rather than serving the best interests of others. Is there a middle ground between self-interest and altruism?
What is the cause of our generation?s disillusionment, its complete flight from the romantic idealism that once seemed prevalent? Maybe my own loss of idealism is born out of my father?s perceived bourgeois sentiments.
In the 1980s, with the emergence of the Reagan Democrats, the last vestiges of ?60s idealism were shed. Reformers who once spoke of ending social inequality became content simply with a capital gains tax cut.
This is not to say that liberalism as a force is dead. It simply has moderated its goals. America has lost its utopian aspirations and replaced them with the paradoxical idea of compassionate conservatism.
Is our generation?s disillusionment simply a result of our parents leaving behind their own youthful idealism? Was the mindset of a yuppie imbedded in us through some sort of prenatal osmosis? It is time for us to leave our apathy behind and find our idealism.
The final question posed to Bond became a request for the auditorium to sing the old labor and civil rights anthem ?We Shall Overcome.? The song jarred my foggy memory back to my father singing the same song, except in Spanish. In his voice there was the remnent of his idealism. A hope that, despite lost ambition, he had helped to make a discernible difference. In the final accounting of our youths will we at least have that?