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The *Next* Greatest Generation

Misty Fall Baseball
Creative Commons License photo credit: Sister72

This weekend, several thousand seniors will graduate 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.

Confused? Bear with me for a bit.

Last weekend, I strolled alone through Columbia Falls’ Veterans Cemetery on a rainy Monday afternoon. I’m not into the big displays, parades and such. Visits to honor these folks is something I prefer to do privately.

The Greatest Generation

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 remind you of.

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.

I am embarrassed to say it, but I get the idea from the event as related to me that those in attendance felt that was 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.

The boy’s mom noted that it was too late to say anything about it.

I think she meant it was too late in the day by the time she heard about it from her mom, but regardless my comment to her was that it is never too late to say something that really matters. (For my part, I’ll be passing the story on to the league’s board)

In the absence of feedback to contrary, people like this will continue to act like jerks. Call them on it. If you’re that coach, expect to be held accountable. In the future, consider being a little more like Armando Gallaraga.

Unusual class

In the history of professional baseball, there have only been *twenty* perfect games (amazingly, two of them this season).

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 left the field and walked over to his grandmother. He told her that he wasn’t going to play for that team anymore and would be returning to his old team.

Like Gallaraga, he knew what was right and wrong and ACTED accordingly.

Accountability and action from a TEN YEAR OLD. Outstanding.

Speaking of action 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 a healthy dose of tenacity is what will make the Class of 2010 the next “Greatest Generation”.

Is your business ready to employ and challenge these folks? Is it ready to channel their enthusiasm? Is it ready to teach them the lessons they’ll need to take their next step in the business world?

It had better be. They join the workforce on Saturday morning.

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