The Greatest Generation

By Beacon Staff

This past weekend, several thousand seniors graduated from Flathead Valley high schools.

It’s a bittersweet time for parents, and I think it’s fitting that it occurs soon after Memorial Day.

If you’re scratching your head about that one, bear with me for a bit.

Last weekend (two weekends ago by the time you read this), I strolled alone through Columbia Falls’ Veterans’ Cemetery on a rainy Monday afternoon.

During my brief walk, I discovered the headstones of men & women who served their country at least as far back as the Spanish-American War. That takes us back to 1898 for those who – like me – have forgotten those dates from high school history (sorry, Mrs. Maggard).

In one area of that hallowed ground, I found myself surrounded by the resting places of men and women from the group Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation”.

As I stood there, I wondered what they would think of the job their grandkids have done. Their grandkids – a generation I belong to – have most certainly done a lot of good.

Sadly, we can also hang a lot of unfortunate things on the same group: Enron, our national financial situation, the Gulf spill and other stuff I need not reel off.

One of the universal goals of parenthood is for your kids to do better than you. As I walked among the headstones on Memorial Day, it hit me that we aren’t doing enough to honor the sacrifices they made.

I don’t mean parades and fancy statues, nor do I mean flowery speeches in the park.

I mean actions.

We honor them by our actions, taken by virtue of the freedom they worked and died to obtain for us.

Stepping up to the plate
Just today, a grandmother related the story of a baseball coach in CFalls screaming obscenities at the elementary-aged boys on his team and following that up by calling them names.

As the drama played out in front of the entire team and all the parents and grandparents watching practice, no one said a thing. Apparently that is acceptable behavior for a coach teaching young men how to play ball and how to react when you don’t get exactly what you want.

As the mom related the story, she noted that it was too late to say anything about it.

My comment to her: “It’s never too late to say something that really matters”.

If you’re that coach, expect to be held accountable for your actions. Try being a little more like 28 year old Major League pitcher Armando Gallaraga.

Unusual class
In the history of professional baseball, there have only been *twenty* perfect games (amazingly, two of them this season). A perfect game is nine innings where no one on the other team gets on base – for any reason.

On what was presumably the last out of Gallaraga’s perfect game, umpire Jim Joyce made a bad call on a routine play, saying the baserunner was safe. Instant replays showed him to be out, and even Joyce later said it was the wrong call.

No perfect game for Gallaraga.

To Gallaraga’s credit, he SMILED when he saw the umpire’s call of “Safe!” and to this day has been nothing but graceful. A professional baseball player who lives up to his name in attitude as well as performance.

The Class of 2010
There was a bright spot in the swearing baseball coach episode in CFalls. One young man on the team walked over to his grandmother and told her that he wasn’t going to play for that team anymore and would be returning to his old team.

He knew what was right and wrong and ACTED on it.

Accountability and action from one of the youngest people on the field. Outstanding.

Speaking of actions and accountability, I have high expectations for the class of 2010. I know quite a few of these young people and can’t wait to see what they achieve.

Based on the performance and actions of the ones I know, I expect them to not only be accountable for their behavior, but to be unapologetic about expecting the same from their parents’ generation.

That (and some tenacity) is exactly what will make the Class of 2010 the next “Greatest Generation”.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him via email at mriffey at flatheadbeacon.com.

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