I recently had the honor of speaking at a banquet for high school seniors who had been chosen as “Elks Student-of-the-Month” at some point this past school year and their guests. What follows is an abridged version of that speech.

I’d like to begin with a simple question: Do you trust me? For trust is a rare commodity these days.

Can you trust a 60-year-old white male; an educator for 38 years; a married man of 36 years; a graduate of a Catholic elementary, middle school, high school, and university; a father of three young men – all of whom have turned out to be decent, hard-working citizens; a grandfather of three; a taxpayer; a registered voter; and a disciple of both Bruce Springsteen and Taylor Swift?

I’ll ask you again: Do you trust me?

If you do not, I don’t blame you because your distrust of my generation is well earned.

My youngest son, who is a bit older than you seniors, whenever he wishes to express his exasperation with me, will call me a “Boomer,” and not in a flattering way. It is a designation I cannot deny. For, if I accept sociologists’ categorization of those born between 1946 and 1964 as Baby Boomers, I am – through no fault of my own – guilty as charged.

I say “guilty” because there is much for which my generation owes yours an apology regarding the state of the world we’re about to leave you with managing. For right or wrong, our generation’s parents taught us to trust our neighbors, who acted as proxy parents; to trust police officers, who didn’t wear body cameras; to trust priests, who were like Jesus; to trust that schools, which had no need for resource officers and whose teachers were trusted to choose appropriate books for reading and subjects for discussion, and to trust our elected officials.

Obviously, some of that trust was misplaced as some of our neighbors were rather creepy, some of our police officers were abusive of their authority, some of our priests turned out to be less than priestly, and some of our elected officials have behaved less-than-honorably while in office and beyond. However, that trust made both order and progress possible.

So, again, if you don’t trust me and what I have to say tonight, I do not blame you.

The label “Baby Boomer” is a sociologist’s term, which I am, but I am also a literary scholar. In that field, we refer to the second half of the twentieth century and its bleeding into the twenty-first as the Postmodern Age, and it is on that period that we Boomers have left our reactive mark, cloaking much of it – including its storytelling – in an aura of distrust that is now your unfortunate inheritance.

In our defense, you need to remember that Boomers were born into a post-World War, post-Holocaust hellscape and came of age during a time that witnessed America’s repeated entrance into additional wars with highly-questionable justifications; a time in which a president resigned in shame; a time in which the Declaration of Independence’s promise of equality remained largely limited to white men; a time in which income inequality would grow at an exponential rate; a time when the chance to achieve a quality of life superior to one’s parents became less and less achievable; and a time that fostered the rise of political polarization stoked by charlatans on talk radio, on so-called news stations, and on the Internet to the point that an ideological civil war is tearing the citizenry of this country apart. 

Photo by Liza Summer on

Is it any wonder then that trust and civility have eroded to such an astonishing degree that some school board meetings look like episodes of The Jerry Springer Show; that – God forbid – you unintentionally cut off a driver in the next lane and spark an outburst of road rage; that a young person knocking on the wrong door, turning her car around in a stranger’s driveway, or playing hide and seek in a neighbor’s yard could result in their being shot by a paranoid person claiming to “stand his ground.”

All of the above were spawned from a generation of Baby Boomer/Postmodernists who relished and promoted ironic disassociation, sarcasm, irreverence bordering on disrespect, pessimism, even nihilism, but – most damaging of all – distrust of any and all authority. All of which we transmitted to succeeding generations to the point that today’s Millennials and Gen Z have largely turned their backs on the once widely-shared grand narratives that held us together as Americans, such as the belief in the American melting pot, the plurality of religions, the American Dream, and the Golden Rule, but we’ve left nothing to replace them.

If Baby Boomers and Postmodern artists are to be correctly criticized, it is for exactly that: we have been quite adept at pointing out the problems of our era but less-than-proficient – or even interested – in offering solutions. We have failed to outline a road map that might return us to the grand narratives mentioned above and to such once commonly-held virtues as sincerity, respectfulness, kindness, optimism, love, cooperation, tolerance, and most importantly, TRUST.

Therefore, I’m going to leave you with a simple antidote to our “Postmodern, Baby Boomer Blues.” Although I say “simple,” I find my own solution highly unlikely to be enacted because it is out of fashion and would require much effort and change, which are two of the things we hate more than anything. It’s a solution that will seem obvious coming from me and maybe even self serving, yet it’s the only avenue I’ve yet to imagine that might take us to a better Post-postmodernism era.

One last time: Do you trust me? Here it is:


Read, not just anything but read from the classics of literary fiction and nonfiction, including the texts of the world’s great religions. I believe such secular and sacred texts are the only remaining trustworthy sources to find, to learn, and to implement into our daily lives what William Faulkner called the “old universal truths,” which are our only hope of not prematurely hearing what Faulkner also referred to as “the last ding dongs of doom” as nation.

I recommend such texts because, as I’ve learned firsthand, the traditional publication process is slow and highly competitive. It winnows out texts of inferior quality so that mostly the worthwhile survive and make it to a library or bookstore shelf. Also, for works of literature to earn the reputation of being great or a “classic” means that their veracity and trustworthiness have withstood the crucible of time. Finally, I recommend these texts because their authors knew when they wrote them that there was great responsibility on the tip of their quills; in the lead of their pencils; and ink of their pens, typewriter ribbons, and printers. The gospel writers, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Whitman, Woolf, Morrison, etc. all understood that no work of art that aspired to be great and lasting could promote anything but virtuous choices and living. To do anything else would have immediately disqualified them from the pantheon of great authors and their texts from the canons of great literature.

In conclusion, I’m not stupid. I realize that my proffered solution to the decline of trust in our society is naive and pollyannaish, especially at a time when AI has made it increasingly difficult to trust anything we see in photos, on video, or read in print or online and at a time when there are few remaining safe public places. But until we make a leap of faith and are willing to risk trusting one another again, we will continue to spiral downward into an ungovernable state of enmity and anomie.

The last lines from Jurassic World: Dominion, spoken in reference to the fragile interdependence of all living things, take on additional meaning when applied to our current American body politic: “If we’re going to survive, we’ll have to trust each other, depend on each other, coexist.”

If you enjoy my blog posts, you may like to receive an email notification whenever a new article is posted. If so, click on the Menu link above and select “Home,” scroll down to the bottom, and click the “Follow” button. – Always with gratitude and love, Ty

Published by tyfroth

My primary passion and vocation is teaching literature and composition on both the high school and university level. My avocation is writing novels that explore contemporary themes/issues relevant to both young adult and adult readers.

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