Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh, to be Young Again

Young people and the coming elections!
by Charlie Leck

“Youth will be served, every dog has its day,
and mine has been a fine one.”
[George Barrow]

In the Spring of 1968, at the age of 28, I was involved with a lot of other young people in taking over the Democratic Party. It was really a life changing event for me because I went from being generally apathetic about politics to understanding the exciting possibilities of engagement in the system. It was the Vietnam War that motivated us back then. The war was plainly unjust and unneeded. Just about all thinking and reasonable people could agree on this back then. For heaven’s sake, even William F. Buckley, Jr., the leading conservative of the time, was opposed to the war.

Now, it is war that has again brought young people out to the local political primaries, caucuses and conventions.

On this past Saturday, I attended our Senate District Convention as a delegate. My firm intention, going in, was to put my name in the hat as a candidate to the State Convention.

What I saw in the convention hall on Saturday was a virtual mirror of what I saw in 1968. Young people and other first-time conventioneers were there in staggering numbers that far out-flanked us veterans of Minnesota politics. I knew immediately that it was their turn, just as it had been my turn forty years ago. I could hear their voices, using the language and theme of Barack Obama: “Yes we can!”

All around the hall, their message rang out loud and clear.

We can change America!
We can take America back from the rich and selfish!
We can stop this maddening war!
We can improve America’s health care delivery system!
We can end poverty!
We can build up America’s educational system again!
We can compete globally.
We can regain respect for America from the international community!
We can save the planet!

These young people were excited, energetic and angry! The reflection in the mirror was amazing! We had been so sure we could turn America around. Instead, by our failure, we gave America Richard Nixon, Watergate and 5 more years of that tragic war. Our Barack Obama had been Bobby Kennedy. I’ve always wondered if things wouldn’t have gone differently had we not lost him to an assassin’s bullet. It was Bobby’s language of hope and change that we used back then.

The young! It is their time and I am pleased it is. I think they are beautiful, bright, articulate and hard-working. I sat back and watched and gave up any thought of being a delegate. In our caucus we elected a young and beautifully spoke Hispanic woman. She was so excited to be elected that she cried with joy. We also chose a youngish professor from one our community colleges – he teaches the Arabic language and political science. He said he was tired of being told lies. He wanted truth!

Garrison Keillor wrote about the young in his Sunday column in yesterday’s Star-Tribune.* It digresses from my point a little, but it’s too delightful not to quote it for you.

“My generation was secretive, brooding, ambitious, show-offy, and this generation is congenial. Totally. I imagine them walking around with GPS chips that notify them when a friend is in the vicinity, and their GPSes guide them to each other in clipped electronic lady voices and they sit down side by side in a coffee shop and text-message each other while checking their email and hopping and skipping around Facebook to see who has posted pictures of their weekend.”
I have faith in young people, but then I had so much faith in my generation, too. Now, just look at the mess that must be cleaned up.


*Tribune Media Services not allowed Keillor's columns to be published on-line.

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