Former Presidential Advisor David Gergen Crosses Generations During Mount Union Address
January 19, 2006
Gergen, the second of a number of speakers in "The Call to Service: The Future of Our Nation and State" Speaker Series, part of Mount Union's Center for Public Service, stressed the importance for this country to 'get back to giving back.'
'I don't think there is anything more important for the next generation than to think how they can give something back to the country,' said Gergen.
Gergen began his address with a story about America and the differences in generations, and how the times of change affected its leaders and ultimately the direction in which the country headed.
'The first World War generation and the second World War generation were both very much held together in that they were all committed to the nation, and they had come up through a form of public service which ultimately held them together,' Gergen stated.
He then asked, 'So what happened to the next generation?'
Gergen alluded to the new generation that took power with the 1992 election of President Bill Clinton and exists today with President George W. Bush.
'By contrast, there has been a marked difference in the attitude and the environment in Washington since this generation has come to full flower,' said Gergen.
During Gergen's address, he pointed out that previous generations were held together through wars and economic hardships, which shaped the way the country was led and operated. However, today's generational leaders were raised and came of age in a time of the civil rights movement, the consumer rights movement and the women's movement - all which took place in the 1960's and 1970's and brought with it, as Gergen mentioned, 'a lot of social turmoil.'
According to Gergen, another event that shaped today's generation was the Vietnam War, which did not bring people together like previous wars.
'The people began to go in different directions,' Gergen added. 'It was a time of freedom of expression and cultural change. The 60's and 70's left a splinter on the generation. What you are seeing in Washington now is a result of that because we are having a tough time governing.'
Gergen continued by explaining how today's generation is so divided and issued a 'call to service' directed toward the audience of Mount Union students in attendance.
'We need to encourage in the new generation of young people a sense once again of common sacrifice.' Gergen said. 'The times ahead are going to be tough. It is extremely important for people in their younger years to actually experience service and giving back, and understand that we are in it together.'
For 30 years, Gergen has been an active participant in American national life. He served as director of communications for President Reagan and held positions in the administrations of Presidents Nixon and Ford. In 1993, he agreed to first serve as counselor to President Clinton on both foreign policy and domestic affairs, then as special international advisor to the president and to Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
Gergen currently serves as editor-at-large at U.S. News & World Report and as a regular television commentator. He is also a professor of public service at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and is director of its Center for Public Leadership.
"The Call to Public Service: The Future of Our State and Nation" Speaker Series, an integral part of the College's Center for Public Service, brings renowned public servants to campus.
Mount Union has established the Center for Public Service to prepare students for careers in public service. The Center is a response to the urgent and ongoing need for additional public servants in our federal, state and local government, according to Dr. Jack P. DeSario, director of the Center.