Since I work in education, we’re constantly assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the younger generations of our society, especially the one that’s about to walk into our classrooms. As a faculty, we’ve discussed books that attempt to describe current generational trends, several of which point out young peoples’ dependence on technology, their resulting social isolation, their struggle to communicate clearly, and their tendency toward slacktivism.

While many of these observations are true, and while I’m several years older than our upcoming college freshmen, I have to admit that my own generation shares a number of similarities with them. So when I read the following two items recently, I have to admit that they confronted tendencies in my own thinking and behavior. These are good words for my generation.

The Greatest Generation, hardback from AmazonFirst, I’ve been reading Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation, a collection of chapter-length  biographies of WWII-era men and women. When my biggest annoyance today is that the internet blacked out for five hours, Brokaw’s book is like a facefull of ice water and a kick in the pants. I haven’t even finished it yet, and it’s already a favorite. Regarding the story of Wesley Ko, an Air Force vet who, at age 70, inherited a 1.3 million business debt and delayed retirement to pay it off, Brokaw says “The idea of personal responsibility is such a defining characteristic of the World War II generation that when the rules changed later, these men and women were appalled.”

Second, this high school commencement speech has sparked some controversy around the internet. Of course, I might have worded some statements differently (i.e., from a Christian worldview), but it’s good reading. And not just for 18-year-olds. All of us, regardless of age, have to admit that in our own heart and in our own way, sometimes “building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.” And if it’s not Bowdoin we’re after, maybe it’s comments on Facebook.

Hard words, but good words.