Miller: The power of youth |

Miller: The power of youth

summit daily news
Frisco, CO Colorado

Recently I was asked to help judge essays for the Summit County Optimists ” 58 of them, to be exact, penned by Summit High students on the same topic: “The power of youth.”

While there is a certain amount of pain in wading through a sea of misplaced modifiers, horrifying homonyms and clueless comma usage, for the most part the exercise has been refreshing. After all, your average 17-year-old has the world on a string ” or so he or she thinks ” and their essays reveal some of that bravado.

Since I’ve recently been thinking a lot about how much today’s technical gadgets really get us (e.g., cell phones, Xbox, Internet, text messaging, etc.; conclusion: not much), it was interesting to run into so many essays that connected these technologies to the title topic. Presumably this means many teens feel their cell phone or other such electronic device is a prosthesis of sorts; a source of power akin to Under Dog’s ring, the light of our sun for Superman or Spiderman’s radioactive bite. Indeed, as I’ve witnessed with our own three teenagers, loss or breakage of cell phone is cause for much consternation and hand-wringing of the “I can’t live without it” variety.

I found essays extolling “technology” as a reason today’s youth is superior to the previous generation shallow and misguided and assume the other judges will conclude the same. Where essayists were more likely to hit the mark ” at least in my view ” was when they touched on the two true powers of youth: energy and passion. From the first springs creativity, doggedness and ideas, while the second is the font of the kind of determination that comes from never having truly failed yet. It’s so easy for 40-year-olds to conclude things can’t be done a certain way, while for a 20-year-old, such constraints can be largely irrelevant.

I know plenty of people for whom the bloom of youth may be long gone but who retain much of that power. They tend to be men and women who continue to do what they love in life; the kind of people who don’t mind turning 50 or 60 or 70. Reading through the essays of the 17-year-olds, I agreed with much of what they said about the power of youth and how the lack of preconceived notions and expected outcomes fuels that power. It’s a mistake, though, to make the assumption that one’s productive period is over after youth ” whatever that is, exactly ” is gone.

For inspiration, I often look to people I know who, in an earlier age, might be content to sit around the retirement villa. My own father is one: At 75, the only reason he’s slowed down at all is physical. Upstairs, he’s still all there and still earns the nickname his friend and I gave him many years ago: “The Man in Motion.” He’s the head of his local Elk’s Lodge out in Pahrump, Nev., and he still makes his way through the day with all the passion he did as a younger man.

I also had the good fortune to meet Bill Bergman recently. One of the founders of Keystone is now in his 80s, but he and his wife of 61 years, Jane, still ski five days a week. My friend Bob Moore just turned 60. That may be “the new 40,” but Bob ” who appears on stage dozens of times each year ” makes it look more like the new 30.

Good examples, all, and perhaps fodder for next year’s essay contest on how one need not be young to be youthful. Somehow, you just need to hang onto it.

Editor Alex Miller can be reached at or (970) 668-4618.

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