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June 6, 2007

Tomorrow's Leaders Today

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Graduation season is upon us and this is the time many of us get some emersion exposure in the values and attitudes of our youngest generation, who are about to assume future leadership positions.

I have been profoundly impressed with the current generation donning caps and gowns and tepidly dipping their toes in the perilous waters of the unknown future.

It will be interesting to see how this current age group shapes our world. At every possible opportunity, I have attempted to "interview" young people about a wide range of topics.

I was thunderstruck by the negative view many expressed of the mainstream media. To be somewhat polite about it, my experience is that much of the younger generation does not take traditional media very seriously. All too often their independent investigation has caused them to understand that "media bias" is real.

It was explained to me that in today's world it is far too easy to "fact check" a newspaper article that is slanted and misleading. Today's Internet allows one to easily read the "rest of the story."

Curiously enough, many young people commented that they are impressed that much of the mainstream media "seems hell-bound to throw itself off a cliff and has lost any credibility." One young man, after a reflective pause, continued by saying that his generation "did not revel in the slow suicide of the media" but rather viewed "it as a tragedy."

But what really caused many of the younger generation I "interviewed" to go from zero into some sort of a NJ-Turnpike- toll-collector stare was a discussion about politics. Many expressed their understanding that the "red" - "blue" politically partisan view of the world is not real.

Most of them were very concerned with the environment but disillusioned with the current politicization of the issue.

One example of disillusionment was brought up in a discussion of the "Kyoto Accord." The "Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" was an amendment proposed December 11, 1997, in Kyoto, Japan, to the international treaty on climate change. The protocol proscribed mandatory emission limitations for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

On several occasions I was lectured that "my (mainstream) media" would have us believe that the Bush administration is the reason for the greenhouse affect and global warming. Yet several expressed confusion as they have learned that it was the Clinton-Gore administration that rejected the Kyoto Protocol.

One young lady, who identified herself as "liberal" on the environment, explained that although she firmly believes that "personkind" is negatively impacting the environment and causing global warming, she wishes Al Gore "would shut-up about it because he is way too arrogant, a hypocrite and too preachy." And she "doesn't believe anything Hillary says."

She placed no faith in either party adequately addressing the "imperative of environmental reform." She explained that "the Democrats, especially, pull that toy rabbit around a track to give the righties some exercise by running in circles, chasing it."

When my "interviews" delved into the war in Iraq, it was brought up that when then-President Bill Clinton ordered air strikes on Iraq (on December 16, 1998,) he expressed a belief that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and that Iraq harbored a terrorist threat to global stability.

"Yet Democrats explain that when President Bush said that Iraq had WMDs, he lied. I wonder who is telling the lies and who is telling the truth."

Of course, this explanation is obviously meaningless to those who practice professional partisan outrage, but this came from a young woman who wants the war in Iraq to end "yesterday," but who is worried about how the Democrats "are going about it." She has "friends who are over there and other friends who are going there" and she doesn't want harm to come to them by the "Democrat approach."

One gentleman, as did a number of Iraq veterans, remarked that they may never trust the mainstream media as they have witnessed the inconsistencies of what they saw is happening in Iraq with how it is being portrayed in the major media outlets, "Some of which seem to have a grudge dating back to the reign of Caesar."

In an attempt to present as neutral, I shared that I have private reservations about the progress of the war in Iraq. To which he explained his position with a simple question: "would you rather have a home game or an away game?"

When I asked as to how I may appropriately express my reservations, he said "carefully." And as he continued (erroneously) to conclude that I did not support the war on terrorism, he "unceremoniously" explained to me that most of his colleagues in uniform do not believe that "you #!@&^*! liberals support the troops when you give aid and comfort to the enemy."

As I pulled out my reporters pad to take some notes, he, (like many) said he did not want to be a part of my columns, that the military's job "is to protect democracy, not practice it." He then added "you folks certainly have been well trained to bark on cue."

Realizing when in a hole - stop digging - I thanked him for his service and went about my business.

It has been said that "Wisdom consists of the anticipation of consequences." It would appear that much of our older generation is not very wise in the eyes of the 18 to 25 year olds out there who are observing our public discourse and leadership - with disdain. One young man explained that he has come to realize that our "spin" is not his "reality."

If maturity is qualified as an acceptance of responsibility and not as a function of age, it could be said that that our current crop of young, future leaders may very well be far more mature than those in leadership positions today.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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