On August 27 the August 27 Kansas City Star reported that this year’s youth employment rate was 48%, the lowest since 1948.
I live in Southern California and some of my relatives are an hour away in San Diego. Instead of driving the coast, I sometimes take the train and do some studying, this time it was math. I sat across a young man of no more than 20 years, who was traveling with his girl friend to see her parents. He was adorned with a collection of tattoos, and came with an obsessive desire to talk. He wanted to know what I did, what my wife did, and my education. He was in search of a job. He explained how since he was 16 he had been on his own working at a series of jobs, including programming. He was also educated and a few credits shy of a bachelor’s degree in science.
I put my books down and began talking about networking and the process of building a career. I also tried to steer the conversation towards opening a business. Surely this guy with his gift for striking up conversations, his intelligence, and his quickness would end up a multi-millionaire within five years. But, it was not to be on this trip. He wanted a job.
The reason why this encounter has stuck with me is that I got the impression that if we do not come out of this recession soon and offer our young people some hope, then more is at stake than our economy. I don’t know what was true or false about what he said, but a fear grew in me that we, in our collection of institutions and relationships charged with developing our youth, have not instilled in them the values of liberty and self-reliance that built this country. Our greatest threat to our country’s future may be what we failed to pass on to our youth. The report in the Star reinforced my fear.