Editorial: Respecting our “elders”

British writer Hilary Mantel once said, “History offers us vicarious experience. It allows the youngest student to possess the ground equally with his elders; without a knowledge of history to give him a context for present events, he is at the mercy of every social misdiagnosis handed to him.” There is no doubt that those who have come before us, no matter how old or how young, are wiser. In all aspects, people in their late 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond have more experience than we do. They have a well-developed, more informed perspective on life. As college students, that is something we should not overlook.

Our generation–deemed “Generation Y” or “The Millennials” by various publications, online media sources, and adults everywhere–gets a lot of beef for seemingly trying to write our own history. We are often the brunt of many conversations regarding whether or not our current impact on society, and on the world at large, is actually beneficial. Are we reversing the hard work and efforts of those who have come before us? Do we, as current college students, have a complete disregard for the work of our grandparents and parents’ generations?

At our University, quite the opposite is true. The recent visit of actor, producer, and Barack Obama’s Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement Kal Penn demonstrated students’ invested interest in Kal’s insight on civic engagement, but also, perhaps, in his role as a popular film and television star. Also, the decision of Activities and Campus Events (ACE) and the Campus Activities and Events (CAP) Center to bring musician M.C. Hammer, popular from the late 1980s until the late 1990s, for Chrysalis demonstrates an appreciation for artistic talent that has clearly influenced the music and pop culture we consume today.

Sure, Penn and Hammer are just a few examples of how University students are honoring the perspectives and hard work of our “elders” (Kal is only in his mid-30s while MC Hammer is slightly over 50). It’s certainly one thing to host them on our college campus, but another to truly honor their work and use it to influence our own version of “history.” Thankfully, technology makes it very easy to connect with people from the generations before ours. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of politicians, lawyers, doctors, television and film actors, athletes, public figures, and others allow the members of our generation to read what these people have to say and understand the places and perspectives from which they come. We might more willingly read tweets or Facebook posts than history textbooks, but hey, we’re getting the point, right?

Generation Y is certainly not out-of-touch with history; we’re living alongside it. Technology has directly linked us to those who have grown up before us, worked a number of jobs before us, and impacted the world before us. People who say we’re recklessly blazing our own trails are wrong. On the contrary, the current youth is making a path in the middle of a forest filled with deep-rooted trees. We co-exist rather than ignore these people; technology has brought us all together and allows for our forefathers to strongly influence our creation of history.

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