Leaving the World in Younger Hands: It Will Be OK

As a ‘retired’ person who has had a long career, I have often heard concerns expressed by some colleagues about the people who will succeed us. Will they be able to handle all the problems they will face (some of which we created) and is the world heading down a sinkhole in their hands? As best I can tell this is a common refrain among older folks in any activity, and will undoubtedly be true of today’s younger folks when they get to that stage of life. Having worked with many young people and mentored a number over the years, I want to comment on that concern.

As a former Fellow in the Congressional Fellowship Program, I have occasionally been asked to serve as a reviewer of fellowship applications, including face-to-face interviews of finalists. Admittedly, these are somewhat unique and highly screened applicants. They all hold science Ph.D’s and are self-motivated to work in Washington, DC for a year or two on Capitol Hill or in a U.S. Government executive branch department or agency. Nevertheless, I am continually impressed, and even awed, by the quality of most of those I interview, many of whom do not receive fellowships because of the intense competition. I’ve also met and worked with other Fellows who came through other paths and who impress me greatly. In my opinion they are every bit as good as those that were part of my peer group, and perhaps better in terms of training and commitment to public service. I do not lose sleep over those who will succeed us in the years to oome.

I have also worked with many others who did not come to public service via the fellowship route. Some of them were people I worked for and with, and some were people I hired as I advanced through my career. All I can say is that I’m not worried about our future public servants and leaders. In fact I see them as more committed to public service than my post WW II generation that was labeled ‘the apathetic generation’.

What I am concerned about is a lack of mentoring of young people by today’s managers, as mentioned in the opening Page of this blog: ‘About this blog and me’. The importance of mentoring will be discussed more fully in a future blog.