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DAN TOMPKINS ARTICLE College Voice Online | Conn students take active role in Gen-X Conference

Conn students take active role in Gen-X Conference

by Dan Tompkins

Thirteen Conn students attended a conference on national issues for young adults in Philadelphia on Oct. 17-19 in Philadelphia. The conference was organized by the Foundation for Individual Trust and Social Responsibility (FIRST).

A FIRST survey from the conference identifies the students as civic-minded volunteers. They are highly spiritual, but not very religious. They are liberal, but they are all about teaching values and ethics in schools. 92% of the delegates have held leadership positions in their schools and communities.

Keynote speakers included New Jersey congressman Rob Andrews. The speakers highlighted work done by the delegates in break-out groups. Speakers were used in a panel discussion format to discuss broad topics concerning Generation Xers.

Delegates spent most of their time in groups of ten to twenty discussing issues such as isolation and community, liberty and order, and unity and diversity. Teh task at hand was to propose researchable questions within the areas and present them to FIRST.

The groups attempted to look for ìunderlying philosophies and valuesî existing ìon all sides of the issues.î The answers and research will become a part of a ìgenerational action planî (GAP) that the organization will present to political candidates in the 2000 elections.

A significant portion of the discussion between events centered around what students could do when they returned to their schools and communities. The Conn delegation is already planning a discussion with President Gaudiani and the campus on Tuesday, November 11.

Andy Clark ë00 wants to use the impetus gained at the conference to ìwake the student body up to all the opportunities and responsibilities our generation has.î Clark is one of the most active members of the group, charging forward with event planning and beginning discussions about starting a club on campus to generate more student involvement and awareness concerning the issues of our generation.

Amy Palmer ë00 sees much of the same responsibilities of the conference delgates as they return to Conn and begin to move ahead with plans to engage the student body. Palmer feels that the charge of the FIRST group is to ìpromote a desire among students to affect change.î

end tompkins articles

MARCOLIAN ARTICLE Viewpoints | The Marcolian Online

Volume 125 | Number 10 | Thursday, November 11, 1999

FIRST's reasoning flawed

Academia Nuts
From Our Contributors

"No generation can tell another generation to have a movement," said civil rights leader Dorothy Cotton at this weekend's FIRST conference.

Perhaps inadvertently, Cotton summed up in that one statement the illogic of FIRST, the Foundation for Individual Responsibility and Social Trust.

Purportedly an organization designed to help Generation X become more unified and active, FIRST was begun by a man "perplexed by his Generation X sons," according to Student Life and Leadership dean Stephen Schwartz.

This man envisioned FIRST as a way "to bring (Generation X) into the civic life of their community and country." Those born between 1961 and 1981, it seems, are inadequate participants in their community.

This very idea smacks of Baby Boom-style moralizing. We've seen that it doesn't take much for the Boom generation to criticize others - witness their condemnation of their parents in the 1960s - but what's sad about FIRST is that it is inviting, and getting, participation in this habit from Generation X.

Boom to X: "Why don't you protest injustice like your parents did?"

FIRST's reply: "We are bad people! Help us be like you!"

The trouble with FIRST's conference in Marietta, and the trouble with FIRST nationally if this weekend is any indication, is that the real differences between the generations have not been considered adequately.

What passed as community spirit for the Boom generation has in many ways been destructive and thoughtless. A bookstore was burned on our own campus at the hands of Boomers.

Even if Generation X were inadequate, there is surely another group which could serve as a better model of community spirit.

In truth, there is really little wrong with the behavior of Generation X.

People do tend to forget that during the 1980 and 1984 elections, Ronald Reagan garnered great support from the youngest voters.

People also tend to forget that Generation X these days is no longer the generation of youth. FIRST may supposedly be targeting people born between 1961 and 1981 - but that group includes primarily individuals in their 30s and late 20s, not college students, and certainly not the high school students MC's FIRST group sometimes meets with.

Although the Columbine shooting, for example, is one often-cited instance of the savagery of today's youth, it cannot even be blamed on the "bad" Generation X.

FIRST, it seems, has never carefully explored what differences between the generations exist, and why this might be the case.

Indeed, at the weekend's conference the word "generation" was seldom used, and never used carefully.

And the possibility that community spirit simply comes with age was not considered.

Rather than questioning subjects such as "isolation and community," as MC's FIRST chapter does, the assumptions underlying the program should be questioned.

Is Generation X really different, and if so, how?

And for that matter, why?

Is Generation X the group we are really trying to address?

Is this generation really "broken"?

Are we sure about that?

And why are we taking the Boom generation's word for it?

FIRST seems to have misfired on all these counts.

Jaime Cleland, '00, completed an Investigative Studies project on the subject of generations, and continues to research the topic.

Jaime Cleland welcomes your comments and suggestions at

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  • To:
  • Subject: Results of Albany National Deliberation Day!
  • From:
  • Date: Mon, 7 Apr 1997 16:17:37 -0400 (EDT)
  • Cc:

  • Last Friday, April 4, 1997, Albany, NY launched the first of FIRST's National
    Deliberation Day!  The event was a terrific success, bringing young adults
    together for a conversation on the topic of: REINVENTING THE AMERICAN DREAM.
    April, 4, 1997 - Albany, New York - Day of Deliberation
    - 25 people turned out for the event, which lasted 2.5 hours.
    - There was disagreement as to the continued existence of the American Dream.
     Some believed that the high rates of immigration were evidence enough of its
    existence; others pointed to the rise in extremist groups and tension among
    racial/ethnic groups that the dream was becoming a nightmare.
    - In citing our parent’s understanding of the American Dream, the most
    important fact to emerge was that there was diversity.  the earlier American
    Dream simultaneously encompassed focused on economics, racial integration,
    gender equality, political participation, etc.
    - A useful way in which the group approached the issue of the American Dream
    was to counterpoise the “American Expectation” with “American Dreams”.  The
    American Expectation refers to what has become expected of Americans by
    Americans, e.g., the suburban home, a nuclear family, high-paying employment.
     American Dreams - emphasizing the pluralness - refers to the fact that there
    can be no single dream.  There probably are as many dreams as there are
    - The major item concerning what our American Dream should be was
    “opportunity,” but we were not able to operationalize the term according to a
    single type.  In short, people believed that every barrier to human
    achievement and happiness should be eliminated, or at least reduced to levels
    that afford individuals a real shot at “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of
    happiness.”  To this end, “government has a  role to play, but so do
    individuals and communities.”
    - The dominant themes and ideas to emerge during our deliberation were:
    family, security, freedom, liberty, obligation, responsibility, “sacrifice
    and service,” leadership, “individual effort,” and “hard work”.
    - Although there was much talk about economics and financial security, the
    emphasis was placed on the freedom, especially leisure time, that is believed
    to come with financial freedom.  The mere pursuit of wealth for wealth’s sake
    was frowned upon.
    - Conclusions: the American Dream can be both individualistic and
    collectivistic; the American Dream is about opportunity; government should do
    everything in its power to promote opportunity; communities must socialize
    their members to understand that government has a positive role to play in
    the lives of people and the future of the nation.

    civic-values-digest V1 #1008
  • Next by Date: Re: Old time religion - Which religion? what about agnostic, aetheist etc.