Tuesday Apr 10 2007
David Korten’s opening remarks addressed all present at this conference as ‘navigators’ of the Great Turning. I find the term interesting: navigators, in effect, act as leaders. They are responsible for guiding the ‘ship’: they envision arriving at the destination, chart a course to it (however tentative or uninformed), and then direct the actions of others to make that ‘vision’ reality. I agree with Korten that leaders are of critical importance for navigating the sweeping transformations happening in our world today.
I was somewhat surprised to see that most conference participants appeared to be in their late 40s and up. The few younger people who were present stood out from the crowd. Korten noted in his closing remarks how most audiences he speaks to are comprised of older people in their 50s and 60s, and that there is a need to attract younger people. Perhaps their absence is indicative of the fact that North American society does not, for the most part, promote dialogue between generations. Perhaps they lack the time and resources to attend. Whatever the reason for their absence, when it comes to addressing the seemingly intractable problems of the world, I believe this intergenerational conversation is absolutely critical.
Internet-based technologies have made it possible in the last decade for conscientious, committed young leaders today to effectively collaborate with their peers. Yet, their selfless actions could achieve even greater results in the world. Older people, especially the newly retiring Boomer generation, have the networks, the wisdom, the experience of being leaders, and the time to help younger people achieve extraordinary results. And extraordinary results are what we require if we are to navigate the Turning successfully. Unfortunately, in our culture, retirees are usually sidelined, withdrawn from the playing field and told to ‘relax and enjoy retirement’.
Gaia never throws out anything—Earth herself recycles and reuses every atom to create anew. Similarly, I have a vision for retiring Boomers—one in which the retirees become Elders to the younger generations. Elders not in the old meaning of hierarchical or domineering seniors. Elders as older people with life experience who are committed to staying in the game, giving their best to develop every dedicated younger person into an extraordinary navigator, and creating a new vision of retirement for the generations to come.
In his closing address, Korten spoke of the need for ‘youth translators’, people who can bridge the generations and communicate with both young and old equally well. This connecting influence between generations requires another type of leader: a servant leader who is committed to creating a space where all can be heard and where both generations can share the best they have to offer in making their common vision of a world that works for everyone a reality.
I am committed to transforming the world through intergenerational conversation. As Executive Director of the newly formed Eldering Institute, I want to challenge all of us regardless of age to either support existing iniatives or start your own. Our motto for those of us in midlife or older is to put "Wisdom into Action". We don't need more advisors and people telling youth what to do. We need leaders who will inspire action and participate in addressing today's most compelling and intractable problems.