Home Concepts Adult Development Essay XXI:  Generativity Three: Consecrating, Gathering, Preserving Values, Story-Telling

Essay XXI:  Generativity Three: Consecrating, Gathering, Preserving Values, Story-Telling

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One of us saw the dynamic of the remnant play-out during a plane flight to North Carolina. We were traveling to a graduation ceremony being held at a conservative college during the early 1980s. The one-time Democratic candidate for the US presidency, George McGovern, was sitting next to us on this small plane. He was invited to the same graduation ceremony as the featured speaker and recipient of an honorary doctoral degree.  McGovern was understandably puzzled about this college’s invitation, given its conservative stance.

Serving on the board of trustees at this college, we knew about the rationale behind this decision. Ronald Reagan had recently been elected President, and the United States was leaning toward the conservative end of the political spectrum. McGovern’s liberal perspectives were now “out of date.” In their remarkable wisdom and generative spirit, the college board members (who were universally committed to conservatism) declared that it is important for each of us to listen to all perspectives—especially those that are temporarily out of favor. This was at the heart of the college’s educational philosophy. Board members wanted George McGovern to speak at graduation precisely because they thought it important for the graduating students to hear a voice that differed from the one to which they were accustom. It was important for the college to honor all traditions and perspectives. This board of trustees was to be commended for its generative act. George McGovern delivered a remarkable graduation speech that was politically balanced and filled with generative appreciation for the invitation he received and the honorary doctorate bestowed on him.

Ignoring the Young

Stagnation can also show up as a lack of respect for the young. It is ironic that when we ignore the past, we are also blocking the future. The past was owned by us when we were younger. We were filled with optimism, a belief that the world could be improved. This was a certain kind of naive wisdom. Now, when we are stagnant, there is a failure to appreciate (let alone savor) our younger selves. Yes, we were “young and foolish.” But we were also full of energy and commitment. Can we recognize that this same passion exists among the young men and women in our society today? Can we allow the young to participate in the critical decisions to be made in our organizations and communities? Or do we isolate and ignore what they have to say?

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