At 66 years of age I am no spring chicken! But I have a father who is 94 and still going strong. Amazing man who last night, over our candle-lit, mid-week dinner conversation, exclaimed that what his generation accomplished in the 1940s was amazing. “I wish we had a vision like that again.”
Dad is a World War II veteran, B-29 bomber pilot and retired Air Force career officer. My sisters and I tromped around America for 20 years from military base to military base. Circumstances led to my move to Pensacola, Florida in 2008 to live near Dad, to help when needed, and to be closer to my own son and daughter who live in the Southeast now. Sometimes I get caught up in the cares of the day and it is not until the next morning (I am a veteran early riser) when my thoughts are clearer, that I realize the gems of wisdom that roll forth from Dad as he looks back on nearly 100 years of life! Think of that…nearly a century of personal experience.
Two things he shared last night as we discussed current seemingly intractable problems in America: fossil-fuel cars, and the Congressional stale-mate over, well, everything it seems. We simply can’t agree on one important step for millions of Americans. In the middle of that discussion he remarked that during WWII there was a national vision of where we were going and that together we would accomplish something for the whole world. That the world of nations looked to us to make things right, to defeat a terrible wave of human to human violence. And we did.
The second thing Dad said, almost in passing, was that “you just can’t change American’s love affair with their cars.” He described riding in a big, comfortable Buick that same day with his medical service to his doctor. ” I remember the model T Ford. When everyone could afford to get one… it was our greatest joy.” He grew up on a small farm in eastern Tennessee and recalled trips my aunts and uncles and his family made to Asheville, NC (60 miles on a narrow two-lane, through hair pin mountain roads). Imagine going from horses to a gas-powered vehicle – the transforming impact of that one invention. The model T opened up so many possibilities and connected people, places, and thus exchange of ideas and goods and services.
This morning as I was writing in my journal, a more than 50 year habit, I realized two key things that might offer us “younger” folks some direction: 1) a national vision everyone subscribes to; 2) an invention that changes the whole paradigm of our lives. Perhaps if we can discern what these two factors might be in 2012, we could reinvent ourselves even as my father’s generation did so many years ago.
What dream are we chasing as a nation? What does the world look to us to do? What could transform our daily lives and rocket us into the next new big vision for America?
[Dad described the city of Chicago’s fleet of hydrogen cars.}