Pleasant surprise
by BeijingIrish (2022-06-01 15:06:17)

Two weeks ago, I delivered a lecture on the Vietnam War to two classes at Fossil Ridge High School, one of four (soon to be five) large public high schools. One class was a US history class, and the other was an AP-level humanities class for seniors. Each class had a foreign exchange student, a young man from Sweden and a young woman from Serbia respectively.

Both classes are taught by the same woman. According to her, the kids asked for a Vietnam vet. The teacher is accustomed to inviting to her classroom people from all walks of life for talks and open discussion. They’d heard from all sorts of people this year, including vets from WWII and Iraq, but they had not met with a Vietnam-era vet. How the teacher found me is an amusing story, but it's too long to tell now. Suffice to say, I thought I was being stalked.

You’ve read my posts over the years (this is my 20th year on NDN), and I am sure I have sounded a curmudgeonly note from time to time, especially when I talk about younger generations. I talk the same way with my own children. Quite frankly, I didn’t have high hopes for the sessions, nevertheless, I put a fair amount of work into preparing a presentation that I hoped would stimulate at least a few kids.

What a surprise. The kids were quiet, polite, engaged, and they asked good questions. Not a single smart-ass comment, and not a single kid got out his/her phone to check it. Somehow, word got out during the break after the first session because the second session filled up with kids who were not assigned to the class. It was standing room only.

I had great fun—I made them laugh, but I did not pull punches. I had to control my emotions when both classes gave me a standing ovation after the talks. After that, they lined up to shake my hand. I was dumbstruck. Then, day before yesterday, the teacher dropped off a gift and cards signed by all the students.

My takeaway is that all of us do our children a great service when we talk to them with serious intent—straightforwardly, honestly, sincerely. I got the impression that, yes, they are hopeful as graduating seniors tend to be, but I think they are also skeptical and a bit apprehensive—their questions hinted at this. This isn’t a surprise in light of what they’ve experienced in recent years. I stressed the importance of engaging the full measure of their energy, intellect, and patriotism in service to their fellow citizens and their country. They deserve better, and all of us should commit to help them make up for what they lost—intellectually, spiritually, and physically—in the last 6 years.