Career of the Hopeful

Aquarium TripDo you love it or do you hate it when your children ask difficult questions?

A few days ago, my eleven year old daughter asked this one:  Dad, when was the golden age of American history?

Oh no!  I felt like I was reliving the AP American history exam.  What’s the answer?  Was it our nation’s birth when Madison, Adams, and Jefferson forged our country and our founding principles? Was it when Lincoln and the North ended slavery and gave the nation a new birth of freedom?  How about the sixties and seventies when social movements brought greater equality to women and minorities?

I wondered: Is there such a thing as a golden age? Aren’t there categories of golden ages? One of technological innovation, one of artistic creativity, one of industry, one of political philosophy, and one of political discourse?  What about a golden age of quality of life?

To my daughter, I said, “It is now. We are living in the golden age.”

To many, my answer offends.  There is too much injustice, conflict, inequality and unemployment in America today.  Look at the senseless death of Trayvon Martin. The most popular movie in America is about children forced to hunt one another.  Our nation is saddled with unsustainable debt. We are polluting ourselves to death. Compromise is impossible; our politics are broken and appear unfixable.

But for my daughter, and her generation, I have hope.  Mankind has never had more powerful tools to help itself. In technology.  In education. In governance. We have the ability to create systems of checks and balances. We have vaccines, biotechnology, brain scans and iPads.   We can regulate ourselves so that the public’s interest is put ahead of private, selfish interest.  It can be done.

I chose work in schools because education is the career of the hopeful.  Life, in so many ways, has improved.  We have come so far. Believe in today and tomorrow.

Our greatest threat is longing for a bygone era.  Could you look your daughter in the eye and tell her that our best days are behind us? Let’s enjoy here and now, as we work to make a brighter, safer tomorrow. It can be done.

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