Monday, June 25, 2012

To Each Generation: A Right and a Responsibility

Mike Bready, a neighbor and fellow state delegate, shared with me his thoughts on the race between Senator Orrin Hatch and Dan Liljenquist.  He sent me the write-up  allowed me to share it on my blog. His insights have value well beyond tomorrow’s primary.. Here it is:

“I attended my precinct’s caucus meeting this year and quickly realized that voters were polarized about Senator Hatch. About half of the folks were passionate about kicking him out, and the other half passionate about re-electing him. Apparently, there are no fence sitters this year. ”…this is going to be fun to watch” I thought. That night I was re-elected as State Delegate and immediately felt the need to understand why voters were polarized on this race to help me as I determined who I would vote for at the Republican Nominating Convention. I talked to my precinct -- starting as many conversations as possible, asking my neighbors about their opinions, their positions on issues, and who they’d vote for and most importantly, why. This is what I discovered:

Those against Hatch referenced his specific voting records or positions and they said Hatch did not represent them or the State of Utah. Speaking to scale, these voters were deep in the weeds…their hands dirty in the details, they were engaged in the process and I believe they knew their stuff. Right or wrong, I had to respect their opinions because they obviously had done their homework and were passionate about their role in selecting a representative.

On the other side, those voters siding with Hatch generally spoke in more generalized terms; they were not in the details at all, rather their thoughts fit into two categories; 1) older voters were overwhelmingly for Hatch simply because he represents their segment of the population, and 2) others who were passionate about the promise of seniority. Hatch supporters did not engage in conversations about his voting record; it was generally about seniority.

Something really bothered me about the Hatch supporters. The exact people who I have so much respect for, the older folks, were loyal for loyalty’s sake and would not discuss Hatch’s voting record. There was a lot of conversation about what Utah would get because of Hatch’s chairmanship on the Finance Committee. Most everyone supporting Hatch, it seemed, was supporting Hatch because it meant Utah would get preferential treatment.

Frankly, I was caught off guard by this. I did not think Utah was at this point. The entire argument for Hatch’s seniority is simply this; Vote for Hatch and Utah gets more than its share. When did we transition from producers to takers? Lest you think I’m na├»ve, I do get it! The Constitution does not mandate differences in rights or power, but senate rules give more power to senators with more seniority, and although most people in this country cry for term limits, they keep re-electing the same old guy (no pun intended) year after year; after all, we do have 19 senators with more than 25 years tenure. I think it’s a fair assertion to say the many states are keeping their senators simply so their senator can end up on the top of the dog-pile one day--decades in the future. Decades in the future, really? We’ve kept Hatch around for 36 years so that years 37 thru 42 will bring Utah magical benefits? It’s really quite stupid when you think about it.

So there you have it. Two sides of this race. Do you buy into the magic that comes with seniority? Or are you tracking Senator Hatch’s voting record?

Well, I’m not buying into the argument of Hatch’s seniority. I stopped looking at this from a detail level where everyone is emotional and details are debated and mis-quoted. I stepped back and started thinking about where we’re at as a country. I asked myself, “What about the generation that’s just starting their lives” (the generation just coming of age now)? “How different will their lives be than previous generations”? This made me think about the various generations.

Greatest GenerationWe all know of the Greatest Generation--those who came to maturity and fought in WWII. This is probably the most famous and talked about generation of all time. Do you know the popular name of those who preceded the Greatest Generation? They’re called the Lost Generation. This is the generation that served in WWI then came to maturity during the Great Depression. And then there’s the Silent Generation, or those who came to maturity after the WWII was over but were not children of the greatest generation. After the Silent generation came the infamous Boomers or children from the greatest generation. Boomers are followed by the Me Generation, and finally generations X, Y, and Z. Senator Hatch belongs to the Silent generation as he came to maturity in the early 50’s. Many of those I refereed to previously as older voters, are most likely from the Silent and Greatest generations, or maybe some early Boomers.

Greatest Generation - Rosie the RiveterThink about what you know of the Greatest Generation. These people had a great responsibility fall upon them which they accepted and went forward to defend this country (and the world for that matter), and they did a phenomenal job. We owe this generation our gratitude and respect forever. When this generation returned home they had an open road ahead of them--unlimited opportunities, room for growth, clean air, jobs, and a new enthusiasm about their future. Their enthusiasm was rightfully earned and they deserved to have all the opportunities this country could offer. Considering the sacrifice of this generation, they had the right to shape the future of this great country.

What do you know about the Silent and Boomer generations? I believe these generations are benefactors of the Greatest Generation. Although these generations ran into some tough times with Vietnam and recessions, they also started their lives with an open road ahead of them also--a bright future with tons of opportunities. Their future was theirs to create.

What about my generation, the Me generation? I started college in 1980 and yes the economy was tough, but I believed I could do anything. The personal computer was just coming into our lives. We recognized that our parents had been laid off in the previous decade—we didn’t want that so we set out to control our own destiny. Unfortunately, this also meant we were on our own to save for retirement. Although the Me generation has been required to change careers every 10 years, I think it’s a fair assertion that the Me generation started with open roads and opportunity’s ahead of them.

So what about the generation coming of age right now? What does their future look like? Is it an open road or are we “sticking” them with the mistakes of the last 30-40 years? Clearly, this generation has a valid reason to be skeptical because they are being handed a load of crap. By crap I mean debt, unfunded government retirements, a culture of entitlement, a failing infrastructure, a bill for their father’s retirement, no promise that the same retirement system will be there for them, and a culture of immorality. Seriously, think about it, we are handing this country to the next generation in the worse shape since the Lost Generation started their lives. Are you OK with that?

Each generation should have the right to start their lives with an open road ahead of them and to shape their own future. Each generation has the responsibility of leadership, a responsibility to mentor younger generations, then finally standing-down allowing the next generation to lead out. Senator Hatch’s 36 years in the Senate means he has served for 2 generations of time, a full generation more than his share, robbing the next generation of their rights and responsibilities to participate. This is partially his fault, but it’s our fault too. Utahans are far too nice, we are too slow to exercise skepticism, and too loyal to those we have previously voted for. We generally want to give others the benefit of doubt and we want to believe other’s motives are righteous. We collectively think other states see us as weird or peculiar so we want them to respect us. I suppose a senior senator is one way to get that respect.

What’s wrong with the “magic seniority” argument is that Senator Hatch and 18 others were party to the mistakes made by leadership the last 30 years. Senator Hatch has been there. Senator Hatch has been in a position of seniority for at least the last 20 years. Exactly what will change in the next 6 years? And please remember, if re-elected, Senator Hatch will be making decisions that will last long after his days on this earth are over.

If you’re a member of the Lost, Greatest, or Silent generations, or maybe even a Boomer, you gave this country so much from your sacrifices. You gave us a gift. Let that gift be your legacy by standing down and turning the future over to the next generation.

Dan Liljenquist is right, it’s time.”

Mike Bready

Highland Utah

Mike’s point that each generation has a responsibility to lead and when we don’t allow the next generation to shoulder the burden we selfishly rob them of leadership experience. I had not considered this in the realm of politics but it something as a parent I’ve thought about, a lot. When I’ve held the reins as a parent too long I’ve seen how a child can be negatively impacted; included in the negative consequences is the diminished willingness to learn from me, when my experience could have helped, due to resentment that I helped foster by holding on too long. In the Senator’s case there could very well be generational resistance to learn from him. However, more tragic, especially if you value his service, is what happens if he stays in office until he dies. Those that follow will not have the benefit of his wisdom and guidance when they hit rough patches. Even today, as a grandfather, I still appreciate the opportunity I have to pick of the phone and call my father to solicit his views on a variety of  issues. I would obviously survive without the opportunity to make that call but I’m glad I can.

We each need to make our own decision when voting but I appreciate Mike sharing his thoughts. For me his insights on generational responsibility fall into the category of a life lesson, applicable to politics, business, and family; not just something to be considered for this election cycle.

1 comment:

  1. A neighbor sent me the following in an email and gave me permission to share:
    Most of have no idea what it was like to live through WWII. I asked my dad about that time because when he and most of the young men in Laramie (SW Wyoming) went to Denver to volunteer for the service, they wouldn't take him and a rancher's only son. They need beef to support the troops and since my dad was a Union Pacific yard master they sent him home to work, to keep the trains moving and he did. For three and a half years he worked from 6 PM to 6 AM (he was the junior man so he got the night shift), seven days a week. I asked him what happened when he got sick. He said, "You worked sick." He worked 84 hours a week for 3 1/2 years without a single day off, not one. And that is why that is why they were the greatest generation.
    I had no idea the sacrifice my parents made. It opened my eyes. They never complained and told positive stories about the great adventure. My dad's only brother was killed in the war so the sacrifice was real and personal. They survived the depression and laughed about it. We may yet have our turn. EDB


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