Host Garrison Keillor answers your questions about life, love, writing, authors, and of course, A Prairie Home Companion.
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August 25, 2009 |
Post to the Host:
Dear Mr. Keillor, I'm 19 years old, a student at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and grew up listening to your stories, starting with the one about Gladys hitting the raccoon.
I'd like to say that I've been living a good life so far. I've kept my grades up, I'm doing well in Air Force ROTC, I've become fluent in Japanese and spent 8 weeks in Japan, and I am now learning about Irish culture (especially music), and am planning a trip to Ireland.
It seems to me like I'm the odd one out in my generation. Other kids are getting in trouble and being stupid. Just last night, a kid got charged with a felony, because he was stupid enough to set off the fire extinguisher in the stairwell of my dorm, which subsequently set off the fire alarms, which we found out to be broken, because they wouldn't turn off! I was awake from 1:30 in the morning until 6:19AM when the alarm was finally cut off. I then had to wake up at 7 to make the 2 hour drive home. (Hey! This could turn out to be an interesting story!)
My question to you is this. What is your opinion of my generation? Do you feel optimism? Pessimism? Impending doom?
You are off to a fast start, Taylor, and evidently you've discovered the pleasure of learning which might prove to be a hindrance and keep you from settling down in a career since you'll always be anxious to learn a new one, but never mind that. Learning is not something imposed by others, it's the mind fascinated and engaged on its own, and I wish you well. (Read some of those mournful and delightful Irish memoirs of the drunken father, the long-suffering mother, the terrible priests.) As for the kid who shot off the fire extinguisher, he isn't going to be actually charged with a felony----- they're just saying that to scare him ---- and he was simply drunk and that doesn't reflect on your generation whatsoever.
It's too early to tell about your generation, of course, but it may come to regret having followed my generation and having to fix what we messed up. Mine is idealistic, or thinks it is, or wanted to be, but we got handed the Vietnam war by the Greatest Generation which completely misjudged the situation and we haven't quite recovered from it yet. My generation was deeply engaged in politics, as a result of the civil rights struggle and Vietnam, and when I look at American politics today and the demagoguery and sheer trashiness, it's discouraging. Members of my generation fought long and hard to keep ROTC off college campuses, a wrong-headed campaign born out of anger against the war, and thereby deprived a lot of young men and women of valuable training, and also wasted time in needless controversy. So much righteousness and so little to show for it. The current debate over health care reform stands as the strangest and silliest in my memory. On the other hand, when I think that a 19-year-old in Knoxville is fluent in Japanese and turning toward Ireland, I feel hope for the future. I'm an optimist, of course. Being a parent of an 11-year-old, I'm more or less obliged to be. So stay out of trouble, keep your grades up, and enjoy your college years. And then report back.