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A Woman's View: The state of the nation we're giving them

Published: Monday, Aug. 1 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

I have heard it said by more than one pundit and politician that we are at risk of handing over an America to the next generation that is weaker than the one given to us — Weaker economically. Weaker in hope. Weaker in world stature. I wanted to know – does the next generation think that’s true, so I asked them.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the debt we’re getting into,” teenager Sarah Hawkes surprised me on a special edition of “A Woman’s View.”

Seriously? She’s been thinking about the national debt? I thought only news junkies and guys on Bloomberg obsessed over the debt, not teenage girls. Turns out deficit spending is not all she’s been thinking about.

“We’re not as strong as we could be,” she continued. “We’re not in agreement with each other. The constitution is still strong. Our nation is still strong, but it frightens me a little. Someday, when I have a family, I don’t want my kids growing up in an unstable situation.”

There it is. The universal desire of parents of every generation. It’s why we do so much of what we do, from savings accounts to solar panels. It’s often why we take the jobs we do, why we marry the people we do, and why we vote the way we do.

“I really hope we can get someone in who can fix it," she said.

Hawkes has political opinions, ones that have obviously been discussed around dinner tables and among friends.

“That’s why I support Mitt Romney," she said. "He’s going to treat the country like a business.”

“I know we’re in debt,” said 16-year-old Carolyn Cooke, "but I feel in a lot of ways that the country is in its prime right now, that we are at our best. My education is great. We are very safe. And the technology that is invented daily! I feel like our generation will have some of the strongest leaders.”

“The greatest leaders and heroes come out of the toughest times,” Hawkes pointed out.

I tried to get out of the way of these big thinkers.

“The media portrays teenagers as self-absorbed and shallow, and that’s just not true,” Allison Oligschlaeger schooled me. “It’s a mis-portrayal of our generation. I’d invite everyone to look past it and see our potential.”

“All people see is texting and Facebook, and that’s just not all of who we are,” Cooke said. “We have more depth than just high school and being popular.”

I found my mind wandering to whether I was all about texting and Facebook. Maybe it’s their parent’s generation, my generation, that is self-absorbed and shallow.

“You think it’s all about the ‘A’,” Hawkes said. “Our parents don’t push us to take the hard classes. We don’t learn languages and take AP classes. So many of my friends take easy classes for the ‘A’ and as long as they get the ‘A’,' their parents are happy. Don’t worry about the grade. Worry about the learning.”

Learning.

What did I learn from talking with these teenagers? It felt like an AP class in parenting. I learned I didn’t know how my own kids felt about these issues. I learned how likely it is that my own kids have a deep need for more respect, not only from me but from all adults. And I learned that the next generation is not wasting their time blaming us for the state of the nation we’re turning over to them. They’re not wasting their time period . . . well . . . except when their talking to their BFFs. LOL.

“I want to live up to the great generations of the past, the greatest generation of World War II that was so willing to serve this country,” Hawkes said.

Me, too.

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