This is the story of my first and last brush with campus activism during my college career. It’s been decades, so some names may be slightly askew — but the sequence of events is still crystal clear.
I crossed paths with 1960s counterculture often as a tot, and I’d always romanticized the activism it inspired. So when I entered college, I was eager to man the ramparts for social justice.
A cause of the moment was registration for the draft, which had been reinstated in 1980 by Jimmy Carter. Like any aspiring young progressive I knew, I was opposed to registration as a half-step away from conscription. (I’ve long since tempered that opinion; I now believe that conscription is a potent tool to make the powerful think twice about committing their own children to war.)
At the time, however, it seemed like a righteous cause to start my career as a student activist. So I was excited to attend the first meeting of a group called (IIRC) Students Against Registration and the Draft and attended by about 30 of the most visible leftist students on the UCSD campus.
I’ve gotten some compliments lately about the way I work with Millennials — that vague demographic term that (from my perspective) includes adults born since the advent of personal computing.
I like teaming up with these people, and they seem to like me. The ones I meet in professional contexts are smart, enthusiastic and fluent in a language of technology I had to acquire as a young adult. (Granted, I was playing with art and music in high school, not computer kits.)
In the world of startups, Millennials are frequently the founders and big thinkers of the companies I help. I like to see my experience inspire smart people with new ideas, and their insights form a virtuous circle — I often walk away with my synapses snapping.
But there are moments when I think, “I’m a grown-ass man! Why do I feel like I’m applying to Burger King?”
I’m spending half of Saturday in the Douglass campus cafeteria at Rutgers while my kid takes tests preparatory to beginning her college career this fall at Mason Gross School of the Arts.
Cooling my heels here is a chance to reflect on two things: the welter of social media I need to update (this blog is the most neglected patch of my online turf, behind my CBS MoneyWatch blog, Che Underground blog, Sceneroller, Facebook, LinkedIn, about six Twitter feeds and all the social media we’re warming up at TheLadders) and the excitement I feel about my daughter’s college trajectory.
Like many friends my age, I kind of backed into college — and even more than most, I hurried through it with no particular idea of what I wanted to do when I got out the other side. My alma mater of UCSD is a top-notch school, and staying in San Diego occasioned the wonderful adventures documented in Che Underground. But I have a great deal of respect for the career focus my kid has demonstrated and much more regard than I ever did for the process of applying to a variety of schools, making decisions and possibly facing rejection. (I’m proud that she was accepted into every program for which she applied, but that reflects in a large part the specificity of her career goals. Few of us had such clear ones at her age!)
It’s risky to live vicariously through your kids, and I wouldn’t trade my choices considering the joys I’ve experienced as a result. But it’s an awful lot of fun to watch mine make their own choices and see those choices rewarded with success.