The search for leaders
There are not many times we feel sorry for the young.
Yet, this week as we approach the 77th anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” — the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 — we feel privileged to have been the children of the “Greatest Generation” and the bridge to the dawn of the technological revolution.
Most of the pride that we feel deals with bygone heroes. And, yes, we mean leaders like our 41st president — George Herbert Walker Bush. He was a war hero and role model — who just happened to lead the country to the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War.
The sadness we feel for our children and their contemporaries is the lack of leaders like Bush — and their dreams.
Our parents won the Second World War. Then came the building of the greatest middle class in history — the boom of the 1950s. The graduates of war made a pledge to build a better American society for their heirs — and did so.
Everybody — yes E-V-E-R-Y body — believed, and was committed to, a better tomorrow for the next generation and respect for those who had sacrificed for that dream.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was the start of a war — but it was also the beginning of the realization of America’s promise. The official end of the Depression was rooted in the postwar graduates of the GI Bill and the democratization of a quasi-agrarian society.
In short, the serfs got a vote and a shot at the American Dream. Embedded in that dream was the belief that each generation should be better off than the preceding one. Now that tenet is not a given.
It may well be that today’s political leaders do not have the influence, or character, of a Truman or an Eisenhower. Those two were political foes (somewhat reminiscent of today’s Washington, D. C.). But both contributed to the flourishing of the middle class.
Where are the leaders — and the followers — who will pick up the mantle of post-World War II optimism and build a better America for the 21st century? Where are the politicians who will work for a better future for the middle class?
Where are the American leaders who will — in Bush’s words — build a “kinder and gentler nation.”
So far, they are in hiding.
(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.