Open letter to my new granddaughter
These are early morning reflections of your grandfather over the Fourth of July weekend following your birth on June 8, 2022. I have asked your parents to pass this letter to you at a time they judge to be age appropriate.
You have joined our extended family that stretches from the metro Detroit area to the East Coast – Connecticut, New York City, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., the Philly area – and to the shores of California.
As I understand it, a grandfather's role has traditionally been one of providing emotional support and advice for your parents as they raise you, but only when requested.
Sharing life experiences and historical perspective, I am told by others, is an important role, so I share the following with you, in no particular order.
You are entering the world at a very exciting but also very challenging time. Exciting because your opportunities are endless. Challenging because you will have to become engaged – fight the fight, in other words – to realize the advantages that lie ahead for you.
Personal rights are diminishing.
You are arriving at a point in history during which America, historically viewed as the 'beacon on the hill' when it comes to personal freedom, is in serious turmoil and runs the risk of continuing its slide into an authoritarian and/or theocratic state, the result of the rise of cult personalities more concerned with amassing personal political power. Lost in the process will be enlightened governing to benefit the people. As a result, you may not enjoy some of the personal freedoms your parents and grandparents enjoyed as they were growing up. At risk is the progress made on racial equality, gay rights, women's reproductive health care freedom, expanded voting participation and other critical underpinnings of our society as we have known it.
Learn our country's complete history, and not a sanitized version. Realize the mistakes we have made so they are not repeated. From that study you will realize this battle has raged in some degree or another since the founding of our country and these personal freedoms have not always been attainable by some segments of the population. But if you and other members of your generation get and remain engaged, then further decline can be prevented.
Education is under siege.
There are forces afoot that would leave it up to the politicians to determine what is taught in the schools – or better still, what will not be allowed to be taught in school – a role that until now has rightfully been the purview and responsibility of trained educators.
You are being raised by parents who are well-educated and understand the value of a well-informed populace, so I am confident that they will 'fight the power' when special interest groups or individuals try to impose on everyone what they think their individual child should not learn in school.
Know this – knowledge is power. So make your personal education a serious pursuit, from day one. Read the classics, as well as current day literary offerings. Learn what the philosophers of the past had to say. Appreciate the world of the arts – be it visual, performance or music. Go beyond what the standard curriculum offers in school. Learn to think.
Regardless of whether you attend public or private schools, remember the importance of our public school system: open to all. Many of today's societal ills could be lessened or erased if we improved the public schools for all children.
Our planet is dying.
We have trashed Mother Earth. The generations ahead of you have failed to accept early on – or in some cases, at all – the facts established by science. While national and international leaders dawdle around on the issue, the situation is worsening. We have known how to respond to save ourselves but climate change deniers continue to put a stick in the spokes, as the idiom goes, so the battlefield now falls to you and your generation. On a personal level, do your part. Every bit, no matter how small, helps. Once again, get engaged.
Remember the less fortunate.
Once you personally have gained a reasonable comfort level in life, look to see how you can help others who have not had your advantages. Too often the governing forces don't provide enough of a public safety net for those in need, so people like you can help.
Challenge others when necessary.
Don't be afraid to challenge the viewpoints of others but learn to do it effectively, as well as respectfully. Recognize that change in the viewpoints of others can be a work in progress.
Challenging the powers that be can oftentimes be done more effectively when you realize that evolution, not revolution, can be the right approach.
There will be times when a more aggressive approach is required as you are attempting to change egregious public policy so learn to build coalitions for added strength.
Also keep in mind that as distasteful as it might at first seem, it is sometimes harder to challenge authority from the outside, a lesson my generation learned when fighting to end the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The advice we got then, which still resonates today: infiltrate from within. Once inside, never forget that the person who masters the rules of the game is usually the winner.
Develop a personal value system.
Your parents may or may not offer you an established religion to follow as you start out but I am sure they will give you the opportunity to develop a spiritual foundation for your life. Expose yourself to the great religions of the world. Respect the religious beliefs of others. Search for meaning and never end the search. And recognize that you have the freedom to establish your own value system. But you must develop one and live by it, not just mouth the platitudes which is so often the case nowadays.
Never abandon your dreams.
The pursuit at times may seem littered with insurmountable roadblocks. Don't give up.
With love and good wishes, your grandfather.