We aWhen I was growing up, graduating from high school was a rite of passage. We as graduates were telling the world “I am no longer a kid. I am now a young adult who knows everything”.

As a kid I hated it when my parents would make me go to bed at 8 o’clock. I remember many nights dreaming what it would be like to stay up to watch The Johnny Carson Show. I knew that if I could get to stay up until 11:30, I would have arrived.

This country was in a lot of turmoil. I am sure that some would have loved to bypass the two decades that began in 1960 and ended in 1979. Those were very difficult times.

I was in elementary school when the 35th president was assassinated.  John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963. This was the time when we were in a cold war with the Russians. In fact we all thought that they had killed the president.  Some of you may not know what a cold war is.

Imagine being in your backyard and you are looking through a fence into your neighbor’s yard.  There is someone in that yard also looking through the fence. The both of you spend years and years starring at each other waiting to see who will blink first. Neither of you wants to have a physical fight. You both get all your friends to stand with you and before you know it the neighborhood is split in two, with each group not trusting the other. All you do is staring at one another.  This is what the cold war is.

The civil rights movement was in full bloom when I entered Grover Cleveland High School. That was in 1966. A year before another leader was killed. Malcolm X died on February 21, 1965.  The cold war was not to blame here. It seemed to be a simple case of in fighting amongst the members of a popular religious group.

While I was a sophomore there was another more leader who lost his life.  Martin Luther King was killed on April 21, 1968. His death created a lot of hatred in the Black community. The feeling was that there was no hope since “the man” killed this man of peace. There were riots in every major city in the country. The news channels were filled with images of burning buildings. The sad thing about all this anger is that it stayed within those Black communities. Some of those areas are still recovering from what happened at that time.

There was one more event that was going on during that time that created a dark cloud that hovered over this country. That was the Viet Nam war. This was not a cold war. It was a blood and guts war. Many lives were changed as a result of what went on there.

I graduated from Grover Cleveland in 1970.  As I look back, I have a lot of gratitude that I survived those rough times.

My number 2 son is graduating from high school this year and I can’t help but to compare what is going on now to what went on those 42 years ago.

Some things are similar. Then we had one war. Now we are participating in two. Then we had the draft.  Every one of us had to get a draft card and although there is no system now set up to force young people to participate, there are still many as there was then who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

With the election of the first Black president in 2008, it seemed that the country had “overcome” the race issue. Maybe??

Technology has made life in 2012 a lot different than it was in1970. Then countries around the world were so far away. Now, these places are as close as your TV or computer monitor. The internet has made the world a much smaller place.

It also has increased the number of people my son has to compete with for jobs.  In my day (and this is unique to NYC) there were many tests one could take to get employment.  We had many choices. You could take the tests for jobs in sanitation, the post office and the transit authority, just to name a few.  Now it is very difficult because those jobs are not as plentiful as they once were. In other parts of the country we see what the closing of the many factories has done to those communities.

This is why graduating from high school is very important for my son. It is no longer just a rite of passage.  The high school diploma has become a very important and necessary document. In my day, you could get by without one. Now it can be seen as a ticket that can open doors to the future.

As positive parents we all want our kids to have productive lives. I think it’s a good idea to share our random thoughts about our past experiences with them. In this way they can see that we have more in common than they think.  They can see that our past is really their future.



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