“From the Bridge” With Chuck | Dispatch #2 – 1968

I’m about to head off to my home town and join my old classmates for my 50th high school reunion. I actually haven’t gone to any of my reunions before. It will be interesting. I only have images in my mind of 18 year olds. Will I even recognize anyone? Will anyone recognize me?

I graduated in 1968. Some say 1968 was a dark year in our history. 1968 began with the Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War. This was a military policy that extended the war another seven years and cost so many more lives. In April, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. In June, Robert “Bobby” Kennedy was assassinated. And that summer saw one of the worst riots in our nation’s history in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.

These truly were dark times. Yet, are there lessons we can learn from these events?

Well, first, the mean age now in the United States is 38.   This means that well over half of those living in America were not even alive in 1968. I’m old enough to have lived through that time. My son, on the other hand, studied the year 1968 in a history class in college.

1968 saw a costly war, leaders assassinated, and deadly riots over political differences.

The Vietnam War is a perfect example of public policy gone awry. With enough funding and support by those in power, public policy, no matter how misguided or bad, can go unstopped and steer a nation in the wrong direction.

Great leaders, such as King and Kennedy, have opponents. Often the greater the leader, the larger the group of those who reject your leadership, even with the strong support of those who follow you.

And, politics in our nation have regularly divided us from each other. In some cases it’s led to wars and lives lost.

Just look at some of the policies in force today, the ones that we question. Again, enough funding and support and they take us in the wrong direction. Pick any national leader that you respect and follow today. There are still those who reject their leadership and work to cause their downfall.   And, listen to our political debates today. It’s more a case of name calling and blaming. As a nation, we are criticized as being so uncivil to each other that our own leadership and prominence in being questioned.

All of these events represent disputes we create between ourselves. We’re not taking the time to learn more about each other. If we want to build a better understanding about each other and regain our civility, we might start with practicing the art of better listening.

Yes, there are lessons we can learn, maybe if we listen more and talk less. So, when I see those old classmates of mine, I’m going to ask them how they’re doing and…listen, really listen.

Farewell for now.

Photo: (Bettman/Getty)