Reason for Hope
Recent travels allowed me the opportunity to attend a book signing at the airport in Casper. At first it seemed like an odd location for a book signing, but the local has a historical connections for the World War II veterans who took center stage on March 31.
The day marked the public unveiling of They Served With Honor: Stories from Wyoming World War II Veterans. Writers for the Casper Journal and the Casper Star Tribune spent the last few years compiling the stories and did an outstanding job. As most of you probably know, the individual tales of World War II history appeared in the newspaper. Most recently they were printed in a very nice book complete with the stories, old photos, new photos and a wonderful tribute to America’s “Greatest Generation.”
Unbeknownst to me, I should have packed a box of Kleenex with me to the airport. There were some extremely touching stories and tributes, both in the book and around the room at the book signing. The widow of one of the veterans who passed away during the project took his place at the table. She signed books on his behalf, noting the years he lived. Another gentlemen didn’t miss the opportunity to remember his two brothers who didn’t come home from World War II. Newspaper clippings detailing their stories, or what was known of their stories, were placed on the table before him.
My mother accompanied me on the trip, and driving away we discussed how they all dressed up for the gathering and the class they displayed. I found myself wondering if there will ever be another generation like this. I’m not only thinking of the sacrifices they made, but the ingenuity, innovation and ambition they brought to America. I’m sure the answer is no, but there’s still reason for hope.
Two days later I was in Cheyenne for the opening session of the 2012 Wyoming FFA Convention. As I looked around the room packed with blue corduroy jackets, I couldn’t help but feel optimistic about America’s future. Before me I saw students who zip up their blue corduroy jackets, learning the beginnings of business attire. I saw students who are excellent public speakers, young people who’ve started their own businesses and ambitious youth with big plans for the future. As one attendee put it, “I’m okay with this group of young people making our country’s decisions as I get older.”
They have manners, grace and good sense, and that’s only the beginning. When asked to develop a theme for the 2012 Wyoming FFA Convention, this year’s officer team grasped “Cultivating Character.” I, among others, was quite impressed. Wyoming’s state officer team is a group of young people whom 2,000-plus other FFA members across Wyoming look up to. They used their selected theme to bring thought to character traits, make a challenge for improvement and inspire their fellow members. They inspired more than their fellow members; they also caught the attention of many adults attending convention.
While we many never have another generation quite like the Greatest Generation, I still find reason for hope among our young people. It’s a good time to celebrate what’s right in our country in hopes they’ll too be inspired and overcome the list of what’s wrong. I know some young people who are up for the challenge.
Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at Womack@Wyoming.com or at 307-351-0730.