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The Blessed Class of ’65 at West Chester High

I just spent this past weekend at the reunion of the Class of 1965 from West Chester (PA) High School. Roughly 100 of us from a class of over 500 attended the $65/plate dinner, some coming from all of the country and some from around the corner where they’ve lived for decades. At a breakfast the next morning, one of my classmates who works implementing a medical technology information system he devised shared an observation from an older relative of his who was in his 80s: that our generation, the ones who came of age after World War II, lived in the best of times in all of the civilized world. Looking around the table at a group of classmates and their spouses who shared the experience of attending West Chester schools during the early 1960s, it was hard to refute. Our parents wanted us all to have better lives than they had and so they spent money to improve our schools and communities. The economy they worked in was almost always expanding and their incomes and well being rose with it. None of us wanted for food, clothing, or shelter and all of us around the table went to college and most of us has degrees beyond college… and those working were doing so by choice and those in retirement lived in communities of their choice. We all worked hard to get where we were now… but we all knew that the hard work would pay off eventually and with the system in place at the time it was true.

I’ve written many posts contrasting the era I was raised in with the era my grandchildren are experiencing. The future was perpetually bright for us. We grew up with a President who urged us to dream impossible dreams: to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, to put an end to poverty and racial intolerance, and stand firm for the principles that made our democracy the best form of government in the world. When he was struck down by an assassin in our sophomore year his successor picked up those aspirations and kept the spirits of our country high. Most of us who graduated in 1965 were oblivious of our military’s increasing presence in Southeast Asia or the racial tensions simmering in the cities: we only saw the bright future that lay ahead for us if we worked hard and get a good education.

Looking back on the past 50 years I see that we might have been the last class to graduate from high school full of optimism. The cloud of Viet Nam, the racial discord, the inability of our government to provide the resources needed to help people get out of poverty, and the disappearance of manufacturing jobs diminished the hopes and opportunities of future classes of graduates. And yet I see some evidence of hearts and minds changing. After decades of the War on Drugs we are beginning to realize that addiction is a disease and not a moral problem. We DID elect and African American to the highest office— not once but twice. We are graduating a higher percentage of students from high school. And we are witnessing the legitimate candidacy of an avowed New Deal “democratic socialist” who seems to be intent on restoring the system to the way it was before Americans became convinced that “government is the problem”. I hope for the sake of my grandchildren that in the near future the blessings of the Class of 1965 are restored: that they, like my classmates, have a sense that the adults in the community want them to succeed and those elected to leadership positions give them visions for a peaceful and harmonious future.

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