There’s something to be said about old friends and the ever-increasing importance they play as we age.
For me, October was a month for reminiscing. At the beginning of the month, I had the opportunity to reflect on the early days of the space age with students, faculty and industrialists in Switzerland, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Sputnik.
Two weeks ago, our annual get-together with high school and college friends, all now retired, took place in San Francisco. We drove up the coast and had an opportunity to visit other old friends along the way. This is something we do every year, and with each year it becomes more necessary that we relive the past and comment on the future. We recount the days when we grew up, were students, married, raised our children and made our respective marks, took sides politically and were just as anxious about our futures as everyone is today.
We are always interested in one another’s activities. Even if we no longer leap tall buildings or stop speeding bullets, we still maintain an active life and have much to share with one another. We communicate during the year via e-mail and comment on happenings that affect our respective lives.
The reason these get-togethers grow in importance is that there are fewer of us now than in the beginning. It is always a sad day when we say goodbye to an old friend. And as we advance in years we tend to say it more often.
The uniqueness of the group is that we all grew up together, during World War II and the Korean War, met our wives in high school and college, and for the most part have celebrated our golden wedding anniversaries. Those wives who have become widows are still an integral part of the get-togethers.
We are all grandparents, and take as much joy and pride in our grandchildren’s accomplishments as we did with our children. We compare the times of growing up: ours versus our grandchildren’s — and we can discern differences. I believe one of those differences can be stated simply: “Where has trust and respect of one another gone?” Is today’s leadership up to the task; are they the role models we want the next generation to emulate?
I am sure that those reading this column and who have a touch of gray in their hair can recall a time when “trust and respect” were more than words. They were characteristics that were earned, not merely slogans that might be used for whatever purpose.
Trust and respect defined the values we lived by. Trust meant that we were honest with one another and could be depended upon to do the right thing, always. Respect meant honoring one another as equals and one another’s property and possessions. It’s not that wrongful incidents did not happen in the past; they did, but not to the same magnitude or as frequently. The times when these incidents occurred were rare.
Seldom did we lock our doors at home, and no one heard of a stolen car. We respected our elders, our policemen, our firemen, our teachers and above all our parents. Respect for one another today is a rarity.
Maybe television adds to the problem. We can’t be under siege with bad and biased news, 24 hours a day and not become insensitive. Children who play video games that purposefully maim or destroy the characters on the screen must be influenced in some way — and not for the good. Cartoons today lack humor and are grotesque by their addiction to monsterizing every character, and their incessant use of guns as the solution to problems must have an impact on every one of us.
During the growing-up years, did we ever see partisanship in politics and self-indulgence in business, in entertainment, even among some religious leaders, to the extent that we do today? When did acrimony and belligerence replace trust and respect? Labeling opponents as liars is par for the course in seeking office or retaining one’s seat in office.
All of this spite and ill will is covered 24 hours a day on TV, in every periodical written or on the Web. How can anyone expect our younger people to “trust and respect” when we, as leaders, set the bar so low.
There are few TV shows or radio talk shows or headlines that are good examples of the kind of behavior that would influence our younger set in a positive way.
It seems there are no old friends in business, entertainment or politics.
Glendale recently lost an old friend — former Mayor Ginger Bremberg. Ginger and I served eight years together on the City Council, and many times we were at opposite ends of the political spectrum. But after the vote was taken, five council members worked together to make the majority rule work. We respected one another and we trusted one another. To this day, we still consider one another to have been good friends.
We took pride in the fact that although we individually brought a difference in approach to problem solving and advocating policy, we worked together. Ginger was part of that combo and did more than her fair share to make a positive change. Glendale is all the better for her presence. She was trusted and she was respected. She earned it.
Today’s council, and councils of the future, can learn from councils of the past. Trust and respect are essential tools in the governance of the city. City fathers and mothers could and must be examples to all the citizens of Glendale, young and old, by practicing, living and projecting trust and respect for one another and especially for their subordinates, the staff. We call it leadership. It is not too late to make “trust and respect” meaningful again. Old friends have always known that.
CARL W. RAGGIO is a former Glendale mayor and city councilman, school board member and airport commissioner. He was also a longtime Jet Propulsion Laboratory employee. He may be reached at OtherSide15@ sbcglobal.net.