Fiscally, it’s not highly gratifying to be a member of the Peace Corps. The organization, created by President Kennedy in 1961, was born out of Kennedy’s desire to harness the energy of newly-minted college graduates in order to give something to those far worse off than ourselves. For many of those who join the Peace Corps, the service likely represents the ultimate good-feeling, soft-power approach to world improvement.
Yet, in a recent New York Times op-ed, Robert Strauss, a former member of the Peace Corps, blasted the service organization for not putting stringent standards on those people it accepts. Ultimately, he argues, the service is filled with college graduates who, albeit having good intentions, don’t know what they’re doing and don’t contribute anything necessary.
We, the youth, are seen in that same way in a plethora of life’s other areas. It is exemplified in “Life in the Emerald City,” a book about Iraq’s Green Zone that includes tales of young graduates who think they know how to fix Iraq. It is exemplified in law firms, where young hotshot law grads think life is more “Boston Legal” than “The Practice,” (as the New York Times once put it). It is even exemplified in “In Good Company,” wherein young Topher Grace replaces old Dennis Quaid (Scarlett Johannson also stars as eye candy). All examples come complete with youth’s wide-eyed idealism.
The old think of the young as a bunch of egotistical, unrealistic brats who don’t know anything or give a damn about bothering to learn. They wonder who the hell we think we are and where we get the gall to be that way. Frankly, I won’t deny our apparent state.
We, the youth, have earned that impudence, however, merely by tolerating the scores of mistakes our elders make.
Look at what the old, in all their “experience,” have wrought at the highest levels: a miserable healthcare system that continues to worsen, an arguably broken Social Security system that will leave nothing to us (though we still pay into it), little meaningful, helpful legislation from our Congress, a ruined planet, insatiable debt born out of a perfect failure of a war (that the youth fight), worldwide ridicule and a business culture lacking any sign of empathy and ethics.
Even our University administration causes pain; parking officers ticket us for stopping to use the ATM. We can’t even have a drink without being derided as horrible individuals.
Without doubt, many of those problems apply to our entire country. But then adults, who complain so vocally, keep voting for the same damn people who make those mistakes. They vote for the religious right. Or Ted Stevens. Or, as New Hampshire and Nevada so lamely did, Hillary Clinton (she sat on the board of Wal-Mart – how do you not see the problem with that?).
We, the youth, have amassed a frustration that has now found its personification: Senator Barack Obama, presidential candidate and the last hope to assuage the fears of the young. Here is a human being (an adult), who gets it, who understands that having a resum thicker than our president’s head does not reflect a quality performance. And if he fails, I fear it will result in nothing less than cementing the apathy of the young, who have, for once, actively rallied around a candidate.
You want experience, adults? Look at your experience! Look at our miserable state and marvel at what your experience has forced upon it!
If this were France, we’d have had a revolution by now.
Brenneman is a member of the class of 2009.