I am the father of three boys. My oldest is 11. While tall for his age, he is still not my 6’1” height, and I can remember many occasions where I have had to lift him up to give him a better view of something that was farther away or just out of his line of sight.
My height helps me see things he can’t.
Another example (though one less pleasant for me): I’m around 40 years old. Obviously, I’m not that old, but I’m certainly older than my son. I remember President Reagan, and I clearly remember George H. W. Bush, probably due to the first Gulf War. My 11-year-old son, on the other hand, doesn’t even remember former President Obama: his entire political awareness has been centered on the single term of former President Trump. He is, chronologically speaking, short.
Through Generation Joshua, I work with teenagers all over the country who are old enough to understand politics and the important role it can play in our lives. They are passionate. They are motivated by issues they care about. And amidst the swirl of information they wade through daily, these teens are painfully aware of the problems and struggles our country faces. However, they still share something with my son: chronologically speaking, they, too, are short.
It is easy to lose perspective, even for chronologically “medium” homeschooling parents like you and me. But as adults, it is our responsibility—even duty—to lift the young people onto our metaphorical shoulders and help them see. Just like physical height, chronological height can easily be compensated for—so let’s help them.
Broad shoulders, past teachings, and future lessons
Here’s something surprising: in my lifetime, Democrats and Republicans have both controlled the House of Representatives exactly 10 times each. Both parties have also controlled the Senate exactly 10 times each.
Perhaps even more remarkable: in that 40-year span, there have been exactly six Congresses with a trifecta—that is, when both houses of Congress and the White House were controlled by the same party. Do you know how many trifectas each party held? You guessed it: three per party.
So what is the point of this history lesson? Simply this: Politics cannot, and should not, be anyone’s hope. If there is one thing that a little chronological height teaches us—the perspective that allows us to see further than our young men and women can—it is that politics is a swinging pendulum. Public opinion changes.
If you were devastated in November, ask yourself why. Is America so fragile that one president and one Congress will destroy it? And if you were euphoric in November, remind yourself that things are likely to change just as quickly. Is America so dependent on your preferred candidate’s success that one election has made all right with the world?
I know emotions are complicated things. I also know that people’s hopes and fears are more nuanced than all this. But perspective is important.
In a world where every single election is the “most important of our lifetime,” it is critical that we avoid buying into the hype and that we stay firmly rooted in reality. That is hard for everyone, especially young people.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am in no way preaching political apathy, and still less am I advocating political fatalism. I spend every day working to encourage and empower the next generation of civically minded voters— because politics matters! Being involved in your government and caring about what happens in capitol buildings and town halls all over this country is the foundation of our freedom and democracy.
But as we keep flipping our calendars forward, I want to encourage you to take a step back. Plant your feet firmly in the perspective that history brings, and help lift the next generation onto your chronological shoulders so that they, too, can see into the future with true and grounded confidence.