JANUARY 1, 1996
A group of college newspaper editors from across the U.S., reflect on the year ahead.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: With me tonight are editors Patrick Strawbridge, a junior at the University of Missouri; Yi-Shun Lai, a senior at Claremont McKenna College in California; Bill Lara, a senior at Dade Community College in Miami; Jeanette Bennett, a senior at Brigham-Young University in Utah; Ronald Eyester, a senior at the Citadel Military College of South Carolina; and Monica Lewis, a senior at Howard University here in Washington. Thank you all for being with us. As we start the new year, are you optimistic or pessimistic about how the state of the nation appears now? Yi-Shun.
YI-SHUN LAI, Claremont McKenna College: Pretty optimistic about it. Even with the budget collapse and everything, it seems as if things are running pretty smoothly, and I have hopes that everything will iron itself out sooner or later, and I think it has to pretty much.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And I'm thinking about politics and culture, just sort of in general, do you look at what's happening around you optimistically or pessimistically? How about you, Monica?
MONICA LEWIS, Howard University: I'm pes--excuse me, optimistically. With the Million Man March in October, it just seemed like black people were coming together more and more, and I think the more that we come together and learn more about ourselves, then, you know, the relations between blacks and whites will improve, so I'm pretty optimistic.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about you?
RONALD EYESTER, The Citadel Military College: I try to stay optimistic in general, but some things you look at in society you seem to be pessimistic, but I agree with Monica. I think people are making more of an effort to improve society they were living in, and that the state of nature, it seems to be improving a little bit, and hopefully, if everyone keeps this optimistic view on things, hopefully things will get better.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And being in Washington, Jeanette, doesn't make you feel somewhat pessimistic about how things are going? I mean, here we are, the government is closed.
JEANETTE BENNETT, Brigham Young University: Well, that is frustrating, but I'm optimistic for the new year. With technology changing as it is, there are going to be new opportunities, and with an election year, people are more interested in government and more interested in things, and any time you get people to be less apathetic, it's an optimistic thing. So I'm excited about it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that, Patrick?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE, University of Missouri: There is, I think, a general tendency to cry crisis a little too early. A lot of people look around and said we've had big problems on the racial front, the country, or the government, or the budget or the deficit, but all in all, I think the country's got a good future in front of it. I mean, I think it can still end where all of us can get what we want as long as we work hard enough to do it. I think it's a pretty optimistic future we're looking at.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Bill, do you share that, or are you a little more pessimistic?
BILL LARA, Dade County Community College: Actually, I'm more in the middle wall there. I'm neither completely optimistic or pessimistic. I think there's a lot of gray going on, but what I do have a lot of is faith. I believe in the country and the people and the young people in this country, and I think that this is a good time, perhaps better than the past in many ways to make changes and make 'em stick.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think enough attention is being paid to the concerns of young people? I mean, now that you're just about to graduate from college, when you look back over your life, do you feel like the public sector provided what you needed in the way of schools, education, clean streets, safe streets, that kind of thing? Did we--did the older generation fail you?
BILL LARA: How could you fail? How could you fail in taking responsibility for my life? It doesn't- -it's non sequitur. I mean, the same way I look at college and the way we accomplish things at where I go to school is if you want to do it and you really want to do it, you will do it. If you don't, if you lack that desire, that motivation, sometimes, true, sometimes it requires a mentor, somebody gives you an inspiration point and you go off from there, but it comes down, in my opinion, to the basic desire of achieving. So I don't blame any generation. I have--the Japanese have a saying. Don't blame--fix it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, just thinking about the budget shutdown, does it worry you? Do you feel like the older generation is sort of blowing it here, or is this--I mean, the shutdown, the partial shutdown of the government, because of the impasse over the budget, or is this a historic moment that shows that people are really thinking about you? I mean, after all, in Congress people say they are doing this so that you all don't have to pay the bills that other people built up. What do you think about that, Jeanette?
JEANETTE BENNETT: Well, one good thing about it is that it's affecting people. Things are closed in Washington. I know at our school they weren't processing Pell grants, and so when things like that happen, it wakes people up, and they say--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Pell grants are grants for student education.
JEANETTE BENNETT: Exactly. And, and so when students see that the government is actually affecting them and the shutdown is affecting them, people are taking more interest. And it is frustrating, and I hope they reach an agreement soon. I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen with that. But, you know, it's at least waking people up.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: I don't know. I don't think anyone blames the previous generation for our problems, or even looks to Washington and says this is an example of them letting us down. To be honest, I don't think most students on my campus at least at Missouri and most big schools are--feel too close to the situation in Washington. Whether or not their office is shut down, they don't see how that affects them. They're looking for jobs. But I think there is a danger of the previous generation--I think it's done now, I think the recent political trends in Washington- -the repealing of some of those helpful programs that were mentioned earlier, that, umm, that do provide people with help, and I hope that gets reversed. I think most young people in this country still believe to a certain extent in the need for welfare programs and to help people out. I think that's something that everyone here believes. I hope that doesn't get turned around in a new era in Washington, as they're calling it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about that? Are you worried about repealing the--the repealing of important programs?
MONICA LEWIS: Yes, definitely. I, myself, never had to rely on welfare. My family didn't rely on welfare, but I know that it's helped people, and a lot of people say it's a crutch, and it's not a crutch. If anything, it's a tool to help you get to where you want to get or help you get on the right track, and I think a lot of people in politics right now are trying to put blame on people who have no control over their fate. They weren't with their parents when their parents lost their job, and, therefore, they had to rely on some type of programs to assist them. But it's--I don't--I mean, it bothers me a lot. It worries me, because there are a lot of families out there, our future, you know, politicians, who may not be able to have a chance to go to school to help their country.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you have the feeling, Ron, that we're in the middle of a kind of historic change that's, that's for the better or not?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, I don't know so much for the better. I think it's--it's kind of hard to view definite--you know, in definite terms, but as far as like what Monica said about welfare and so forth, I mean, programs that help people obviously is going to nurture our foundation of the culture and going back to the shutdown of the government, although obviously I think we're going to resolve all these problems. It's kind of scary when the foundation of your nation is shut down. I mean, it's a scary thought that that's the base work of our very existence and the fact that it's shut down.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you get the feeling that the grown-ups just can't get it together or something?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, no. I mean, it's human nature to disagree, obviously. I mean, we're going to disagree on certain things. I mean, that's the advantage of different types of education. We all have different views of how we feel about things, and people are going to conflict, and it's just a matter of coming to a compromise. It's similar to this panel. I mean, we all came from different backgrounds, and we have different thoughts, but, you know, once we could share those thoughts and, I mean, it's obvious, it's ironic when you really listen to people how much you can learn what they have to say and how they can open up new doors, and maybe that's some of the advice people in Washington should be taking.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How much is all this discussed on your campus, the government, politics, the economy? We're going to get to the economy in a minute. Are students interested in these things? What is--what are topics of concern on your campus?
YI-SHUN LAI: It's really--the budget shutdown has really served to humanize the government and the workers that are, that are part of the federal government. And so to that extent, it's brought it closer to my school.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you mean?
YI-SHUN LAI: Well, we see people getting laid off, and we all of a sudden realize that parents of our friends work for the government, and those are the people who are being laid off, and so it's really, it's really brought it, like I said, it's brought it closer to the campus. And to that extent, it's being discussed more. But then I think that the inside workings of the government are still very much a kind of foggy figure in our minds. I come from a very, very small college. We're only about 900 students, and so to that extent, it's really, really hard to get everybody interested in the government.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is there any topic, say the environment or race relations, that is particularly hot on the university right now?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Race relations--I know at my campus, a very big state school--are always a hot topic.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Because?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: I think it's something that is on people's mind. I mean, a great deal of the movies you see out these days, and a lot headlines revolve around the racial conflict. I mean, when you start throwing around terms like you're going to scrap affirmative action, or you start bringing up these issues, I mean, they're going to get a little hot and, you know, a little heated debate. There's a lot more debate. I'll tell you, there's one debate about those kind of issues, race relations that seems to affect each one of us, more so than Washington politics, and they may work on affirmative action issues in Washington, and they'll ultimately make the decisions, but I mean, I'll receive, you know, at the newspaper we'll receive fifteen/twenty letters on a racial incident that happens on campus. We haven't received one letter on the budget shutdown, on the budget crisis. There's a general distancing from Washington. I don't know if you'd call it disgust, but just kind of figure, you know, it is politics as usual, and I don't think a lot of people on campus really expect a lot and really feel that there's a great, a great matter of concern over a budget shutdown. I think there's a general faith that they will pull through in Washington. Washington will be Washington. But they look at the issues that affect them on a day-to-day basis as whether or not the road outside of their house is littered, or whether or not the people next door are black or white, whether or not they get along. That's the kind of things that are going to promote tension and more discussion on campus these days.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You said you were feeling better about the state of racial relations after the Million Man March. And do you think that people in your age group, are people at Howard worried in general about the state of race relations in the country?
MONICA LEWIS: Yeah, I think we are. The fact that we chose to attend Howard, to begin with, shows that we're kind of--I mean, most of my friends came from majority white neighborhoods, where we were probably one of twenty, you know one African-American minority student out of twenty other white students. So we chose to go to Howard to kind of--for a few years maybe, be amongst people who are like ourselves, but we realize that once we get our degree that we're out there in the real world where your boss, your co-workers, everyone else, might be of a different race than you, so I mean, the fact we chose to come to Howard shows that we're trying to, you know, just branch out culturally, if anything else, but we are concerned with race relations.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But does the state of race relations in the world concern you, I mean, in the nation, concern you?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, obviously, I mean, concerning me as just a person in my everyday society. Well, yeah, I mean, the Million Man March was far from where I was at the time, but it affected race relations in Charleston, South Carolina, where I was.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, I mean, people, it's a greater awareness, and that's what the country needs, is more of an awareness, more paying attention to what's going on, and, you know, greater literacy of reading the newspaper, and paying attention to what's going on and seeing, why, look how--there's something that took place in Washington, D.C., look how it just affected attitudes in Charleston, South Carolina, in a good way, and just a greater awakening and they--it seems like today everyone wants to blow things out of proportion with all kinds of fancy formulas and so forth, but so much--so many topics are just based on common sense and it's just an awakening of this common sense can make life a lot better on the easier state of mind.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about affirmative action, there's such a strong opinion among some people in the country that it has not been good for the country? What do you think about it, and what do you think--how do you think young people see it?
YI-SHUN LAI: Growing up in the state of California, you know, we were all really shocked when we heard that it was going to be completely abolished from the UC system because it's kind of an integral part of our lives. You know, it's natural. It's there. It's always there. So, it's--it's hard to say really. Affirmative action obviously needs some working out. It needs some ironing out. You know, and it's very easy for me to see both sides of the issue; however, I am also aware that there are students out there who don't get the economic advantage that a lot of us get. And so to that extent, affirmative action needs to stay. It really needs to stick around. And on the other hand, it's easy to see the other side of it, that it needs to go away.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about you, Bill, what do you think?
BILL LARA: I think that to a great extent most of these topics are political and they're smoke screens. There are other things happening that we could be concentrating on, like I said before, fixing, bettering, rather than rhetoric and trying to see who's going to be more powerful, the Speaker of the House or the President of the United States, or who or what.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You think people are using the affirmative action issue to gain advantage politically?
BILL LARA: In many, in many senses, yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: It's hot issue, so they can use it to make their own points.
BILL LARA: Of course, we--I was talking to someone before, and one of the things that crossed my mind is we have a lack of heroes, a lack of people to look up to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think your generation has a lack of heroes?
BILL LARA: I think so. Who do we look up to and truly believe and say, you know what, I'd like to be like that guy?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you all agree with this, lack of heroes? Go ahead, Patrick.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Well, I think one fallout, you know, we talk about generational issues. I think a lot of people in our generation look back at the baby boomer generation and they see a lot of things that--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: At the baby boomer generation?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Yeah. They see a lot of things that really just didn't, didn't ring true. I mean--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: This is your parents' generation?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: I know. And my parents did a good job--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Except for your parents, right?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Right. I mean, you look back at the 60's, and our impression of the 60's--obviously none of us were around then--you had great ideological heroes, but I mean, for all the ideological rhetoric of the 60's, and I mean, where did it lead them? It led them to the 70's and to the 80's, the "me" decade. But who do we look for, for inspiration? I'd say most of us look toward schoolteachers, people we dealt with--our parents, community leaders, people we see every day who make a difference. They don't--they don't stand up in front of Washington and, and scream and yell and lead rallies as far as our individuals. This can be a spokesperson. Those can be people who act in the media. But who do I actually take my lessons from? Who did all our peers take their lessons from, the people next door.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you all agree with that?
RONALD EYESTER: I totally agree with that. Yeah.
BILL LARA: Yeah.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Go ahead.
JEANETTE BENNETT: I disagree a little bit. I think we're all in college, and so that separates us a little bit from the others who didn't, and I think those who don't go to college, don't look to teachers and family members maybe as much. Maybe they look to athletes and movie stars, because that's all they know is the world out there that they haven't experienced that, and that's, that's sad, that those are those are their role models, but I don't think we can say that no one looks at them as role models.
MONICA LEWIS: I agree a little bit that parents and teachers and principals should be role models, but also I think that in the 50's, 60's, you had Eisenhower, you had the Kennedys, you had Martin Luther King, you had Malcolm X, so many local people who were known worldwide for their issues and their standpoints, and so people's parents kind of looked at them to show them how to be role models, but now you have--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You don't see their equivalent?
MONICA LEWIS: You don't see those people in politics and entertainment, et cetera, being as vocal. I mean, you can kind of say that Clinton's kind of trying to be like Kennedy because of his age and the fact that he's kind of like this, I guess, the '90's Camelot, but you really don't see that now, so who do we have to look to as role models? We have to make ourselves role models. It's kind of--it's a touch-and-go issue. The leadership is not there. The leadership is not there.
YI-SHUN LAI: Isn't that to a certain extent because of the fact that our time era is just completely different from the 60's and the 70's when there was a lot of turmoil? There was a lot of--there were a lot of issues to make out of--you know, to make speakers out of. There were a lot of issues to take, to take issue with, I guess, to a certain extent, and I don't think it's so bad that we have to look to ourselves to be role models.
MONICA LEWIS: I think the turmoil is probably more now than it was then; it's just not as open.
YI-SHUN LAI: Right.
MONICA LEWIS: You know, you don't see people, you know shooting hoses and sicking dogs to people today.
YI-SHUN LAI: Right.
MONICA LEWIS: It's more inside, or you don't see men, you know, just basically out and out tell a woman, no, you can't have this job. You know, it's kind of hidden, so, no, of course, you don't see it now, but I think it's worse now.
RONALD EYESTER: It's more dangerous because it's like camouflaged. I totally agree with what you're saying. You can't recognize it as easily as you could of, like when she's talking about people getting mowed down by fire hoses, just total violence and chaos, and now it's, like you said, it could be just in the average office. It could be in any building, anywhere, and it is dangerous.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: I think the lines are a lot more--the area is a lot more gray now. I mean, I mean, what is the righteous side of the affirmative action debate? What is the clear, righteous side to follow on and to rally around an issue on? I mean, it's not like a segregation issue, where you can look at that and say, two people are people; they should work together. It's much more of a gray area. I mean, the military involvement; none of us are faced with the draft. It's not do you go, or do you stay? It's not a clear issue to really bring about strong leaders or people to look up to.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me ask you this about the whole issue of heroes. There is this perception, rightly or wrongly, that your generation is--some people in your generation are a bit apathetic against the whole question of slackers, the generation X and all this--do you think that-- to the extent that's true--and I understand it's not entirely true--it does have to do with a lack of heroes in the next generation, or the two generations about it?
JEANETTE BENNETT: There's never been anything to really unite our generations. You know, in the past they had world wars, they had depressions, where they had to come together, and we're just sort of all over the place, and everything's sort of gray to us, because we've never really had to stand up for anything or fight for anything, and so that's where some of the apathy comes from.
YI-SHUN LAI: I agree with Jeanette. I think there's a certain lack of issues to be excited about.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: At least clear issues, issues that are clearly defined.
YI-SHUN LAI: Yeah. Right.
RONALD EYESTER: It's like a self-centered society. You know, people just wonder what they're going to get for Christmas and how many--but, you know, I bet we could go on the streets right now and ask people about the government shutdown, and some people would be completely ignorant to the entire fact that it's going on. And that's sad. That's really scary. You talk about passing the torch from generation to generation. Well, in years to come, we're going to pass the torch, and who are we going to pass it to, you know? You know, a kid growing up right now who his hero is Bart Simpson or Beavis and Butthead, I mean, it's ridiculous.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Anybody who truly feels that this is a lazy generation or a generation that's not doing work, just sitting around, watching TV shouldn't, you know, ask their 10-year-old grandkid to come over and program the VCR. And we may not be building a--but I mean, we're building--it's a whole new infrastructure, and, I mean, it's an incredibly intelligent and technologically advanced generation. People I meet--I have a lot of faith in this generation. No, we're not out marching in the streets, waving the signs, but we have gray areas, we don't have clear cut lines to debate, and I still think there is some disillusionment from what happened in the 60's and what happened in the 70's and the 80's. You know, there's going to be a build-up, more of an individualistic approach, but like I said, I'm optimistic that in the end our generation, they know what they're doing.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about Bosnia, is Bosnia an issue that you get lots of letters about it at your paper?
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Not that many. Perhaps more now that, during the break, the troop build-up has really accelerated, but to be honest, foreign relations issues take a back seat to on- campus, localized issues.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Is that true at Howard too?
MONICA LEWIS: I would think so.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about the Citadel? I would think at the Citadel there would be a lot of interest in Bosnia.
RONALD EYESTER: There is interest only because, you know, the guys who I'm sharing barracks rooms today could be in Bosnia tomorrow. I mean, it hits home, because we're a military school, and the fact that, you know, we practice military ideals, and we wear uniforms, but, you know, we're not a service academy, so people don't center their lives around the armed forces, but a third of our graduating classes go into the military, so this is a big issue.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What are people saying about Bosnia?
RONALD EYESTER: Well, I mean--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I mean, this is an issue that involves a lot of idealism, whether you're for it or against it, it's partly based on wanting to help, right?
RONALD EYESTER: Yeah. I think people, a lot of people, I mean, obviously, people are going to voice a variety of opinions and people believe that, you know, why are we going over there? I mean, my main concern, I've talked about it with my friends, is they're talking about keeping peace. I mean, you have to make peace before you can keep it. I mean, they're talking about maintaining something that really doesn't exist, and you know, it's dangerous, and I think now a lot of people wake up, especially during the holiday season when, you know, you're watching the news and you're watching these soldiers eat off paper plates, and, you know, it really saddens you, and overall, though, I think as a nation, I mean, whatever the decision is, I mean, I think as an American, you know, we should support that decision and, you know, we are Americans, we are citizens, and we should support the decisions that are made, and you know, show that commitment to other nations.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: How about at Miami, at your college, is there much interest?
BILL LARA: Well, yes, as a matter of fact there is. Miami Dade is such an international hub. We have many, many, many places, and there's a lot of interest in things that are happening outside the country, not just Europe, Latin American and things of this sort.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: We need to keep in mind that the betterment of the whole and it's a gray area. Affirmative action isn't a perfect program, but what's the alternative? The mission to Bosnia, no, it's not a perfect mission. It's not clear cut, and we're not fighting the Nazis, and it's not something we can all rally around, but what is the alternative? What else is going to bring peace to that region? I would point that, you know, we say it's not worth one American life. Is ten thousand Bosnian lives worth one American life? They're not clearcut issues. They're tough issues to grapple with.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that one reasons students aren't so interested in Bosnia or in some of the other foreign policy issues is that they're facing such a tough job market? I mean, do you have the feeling that this is a tougher job market for you all?
MONICA LEWIS: Definitely.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Are you worried about it? Are you worried about doing as well as your family, for example, or as well as your family wants you to do?
MONICA LEWIS: Umm, probably--in the business that we're trying to get into, I know that it's hard because you--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You want to be a journalist?
MONICA LEWIS: I want to be a reporter for a newspaper. It's not a career, you know, so to speak, that needs a lot of people, you know, whereas, like a mortician; you always have business. But there is really nothing pressing about journalism, so it's hard, but I think the whole-- everyone I meet--the economy in the state that it is, and so many people laid off, and you know, with technology taking the place of actual people, it's like pretty soon there will be a computer that can, you know, generate stories and put out papers, or pretty soon people won't want to read newspapers; they'll just want to watch TV or listen to the radio. So it's kind of, you know, depressing but I do think that I'll be--I'll do as well as my parents, if not better.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you worry about the economy and about your role in it?
YI-SHUN LAI: Yes and no. It makes things--you know, it makes--I think it's really hard to say. We're so unpredictable as a generation. I mean, the human race is so unpredictable as a people. I think it's hard to say. It really is.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But you're not--is somebody in somewhat sort of despair about the economy?
RONALD EYESTER: I think a lot of it's exaggerated. I mean, like going back to what Bill said, if you want something, and you're determined to get it, and you're going to dedicate a lot of effort to do it, I think you will get it, and I think it goes back to everyone having their own American dream, what they want to do. You know, as long as you can see something, just reach out for it. I mean, I firmly believe in if you want something and you, you know, you got enough work going into it, you're going to accomplish that goal.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: So long as the program and the support is there to help you see what the goal is going to be.
YI-SHUN LAI: This is this gray, foggy area that we're talking about, makes us more a go-getter generation. You know, it's like, well, we don't know what we're going to get, so I guess it's just up to us to go get it. I mean, that's the only thing we can do. I mean, what else--
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Like trial and error.
YI-SHUN LAI: --can we do? Exactly.
BILL LARA: Getting it as it comes.
PATRICK STRAWBRIDGE: Colleges aren't the philosophical debate type places that maybe they were once meant to be. I don't know how true that ever rang, but it's more a job factory than any other--I don't know--people need to work. People need to find jobs. That's what they go to college for these days, and outside interests and foreign policy issues are going to take some of a back seat to that. Again, it's, what do you know, and what do you want to do?
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, this has been very interesting. Thank you all for being with us.