As a young child I always wanted to be taken seriously, especially by my father. What I thought of the ’68 election, the Vietnam War, Watergate…It wasn’t that he and I hadn’t had plenty of good discussions, it was that he had already come to the conversations with opinions largely fully formed. I learned a lot from those discussions and still remember many of the lessons. But the relationship was clear, father and son. Teacher and student.
Then one day, two-thirds of the way through law school, it happened. My father asked me a legal-business question, as an empty vessel, asking me, his son, “What did I think?” Whatever joy I had in this long-anticipated moment was vanquished by the realization that I didn’t really want this adult responsibility after all. That in a small way, the torch was starting to be passed and with it, its weight. The endless rights we envision of adulthood as children are quickly replaced by the endless responsibilities we inherit with maturity. Are we ready for the torch to pass to us?
This past Friday I had the honor to moderate two conversations with Ambassador Andrew Young, the great Civil Rights leader, confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr., who had served as a Congressman, Mayor, brought the Olympics to Atlanta, and so much more. The programs include a webcast with CommPRO on their new American Legends series and a podcast on In House Warrior in concert with the Corporate Counsel Business Journal. I was joined by co-hosts on each program, including the remarkable Dr. Denise Hill, historian and Assistant Professor, Strategic Communication, at Elon College; Bill Ide, a partner at Akerman and the former general counsel of Monsanto and former President of the ABA; and Ed Grosvenor, the Editor-in-Chief of American Heritage magazine. Each of these co-hosts are incredibly interesting guests in their own right and have and will be on future programs.
Toward the end of the CommPRO webinar, an audience question came in too late to be asked, but it struck me nonetheless. “Thank you for the reminiscences of Ambassador Young” but could he talk more about today? “Reminiscences?” This last voice of history from the 1960’s Civil Rights movement? In. The. Room. with Dr. King and so many more. Whose “Andy Young Presents” videos has him in the room with Jimmy Carter, Hank Aaron, Nelson Mandela and on and on.
“How does this affect me?” is a fair question. It also seemed like the kind of dismissive question that in today’s walking-on-eggshells world, would sound like cancelling if it didn’t involve someone older, who are the easiest to dismiss. I know it wasn’t meant that way, but it felt sort of like an “OK Boomer” dismissal. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but can you get to the good stuff?”
Imagine what it would be like to be in the room?
And maybe that is the lesson all in itself. All of us are in the room. What we do next matters most. History doesn’t always feel like history at the moment. Are we ready to carry the torch?