By Joe Rector

I began a new job as a substitute teacher at the beginning of the school year. The first couple of days were rough as I reacquainted myself with teenaged students. I’d spent 30 years as a teacher but had been gone from the school setting and the classroom for a long time. What surprised me was the fact that my generation no longer was present except in rare cases. We’ve left the educating of the young to a new group of teachers. Our time has passed.

For the past year, I’ve watched the presidential race. From the primary candidates to the party nominees, most of the individuals are either too old or too tainted to be effective leaders. They preach divisiveness instead of unity; some openly show their dislike for others who have different color or different language from theirs. Our two candidates are Baby-Boomers at the age of 70 or close to it.

John F. Kennedy became the youngest president to take office from the oldest sitting one. In his inaugural address he declared that the Eisenhower generation had passed the torch to a new generation of leaders. He called on citizens to “ask not what you can do for your country; rather, ask what you can do for your country.” The time has come for that same kind of change to come once again.

New, young leaders must come, and with them they must bring new ideas and open minds. Most importantly, they must also arrive with a willingness to reach across the aisle in order to work together. Continuing gridlock promotes political ideologies while injuring the country and its citizens.

These new, young minds bring with them possibilities and solutions that my generation can’t imagine. Perhaps they can formulate new approaches to the questions of entitlements, how to pay for them and how to check their out-of-control growth. They might be able to bring a fresh approach that discovers a way of stopping the pollution of our planet before it no longer can sustain life. Tech-savvy leaders can implement educational programs in the work place that retrain workers for the jobs of the future. It’s imperative that they do so because those old manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back nor will they offer a living wage.

Too many young people complain about the shape the world finds itself. They throw up their hands and declare there’s no need to even try to get involved. That kind of thinking just won’t help this country to remain strong. The sad fact is that too many Americans have already given up; they no longer participate in the process. Our country’s hope lies in the willingness of the young to participate in the process. Yes, it involves sacrifice in that our brightest must delay some of their own goals and instead become servants and stewards of this country. It is an act of unselfishness that can bring with it rewards to generations to come.

We Baby-Boomers must step out of the way. Let’s allow the next generation to save the country. They have more energy and more years left than we do. Their new and bold ideas are our only hope for a better world. We mustn’t be a “helicopter generation” that spares them from adversity. Our generation survived the hard times, and this new generation will grow and overcome the obstacles before them.

Our older generation has accomplished some good things. The country has been a world leader for years because of our efforts. It’s time to usher in that new generation and to allow them to lead and make this country their own. Maybe we can serve as mentors to them until they find solid footing. The things that they accomplish might well surprise us all.