Giving to Reed

The Next Generation
John McNellis's remarks to the Parent Council
November 7, 2008

Rather than begin by jumping straight into my principal duty as your council chair—that is, gently asking you for money—I thought we might reflect a moment on the economy. If anyone ever doubted that old aphorism about economics being the “dismal science,” those doubts must be gone today.

This is the worst economy since 1932—we’re already in the “Great Recession” and each day is getting worse. On good days, I get a call from a tenant (I’m in the shopping center business) seeking a rent break, or a call from a friend telling me he’s just lost his job, or a call from another friend simply to commiserate over the dismal state of business. On bad days—like yesterday—I get a call from someone about to lose his entire fortune, his entire net worth, because of an ill-fated real estate deal.  

The economy is terrible. All of us—everyone in this room—have been affected by it. We are spending less and worrying more. It’s so bad we might liken this economy to a raging forest fire in which we’ve all been burned, some, sadly, beyond saving.

But what do forest fires do?

They clear out dead wood and overgrown, suffocating vegetation. They create open space and sunlight, they allow the next generation to grow and thrive.

And I submit to you that is exactly what is happening to us now. We are enduring the painful but ultimately rejuvenating effects of an economic forest fire.  

Barack Obama won by only three plus percent. Every republican friend I have—mine are the thinking, liberal northern California variety—blames not Sarah Palin, but the economy for McCain’s loss and I agree with them. If the economy were only slightly robust, we would be saluting President McCain.

Thus, from a democrat’s perspective at least, one could posit that the first rebirth, the first rejuvenation that this economic inferno has produced is President Barack Obama.

Our daughter Jamie—a red-shirt senior—called us on election night, thrilled and excited beyond belief over Obama’s victory. She and her friends were over the moon. She said the whole school was celebrating; the kids were even blowing off fireworks in celebration.

That youthful exuberance brings me to my next point.

This economic conflagration has cleared the way for the next generation. Just as President Clinton ushered in our era—that of the baby boomers—President Obama will be drawing the curtain on our reign over the next eight years. As many have noted, this election really wasn’t about race, it was about age, it was about a generational changing of the guard. We, the boomers, will be leaving the stage over the next eight years, leaving our country in the hands of the next generation.

And now, at last perhaps, that brings me to why we are here today. We are here because there is something we can do for our country: we can help educate the next generation, help the best and brightest attend a school like Reed. That’s why Michele and I are here today. Reed is a terrific school and for those of us fortunate enough to have only been singed in this economic inferno, I can think of no better way to express our gratitude than to help make Reed more available, more affordable to the next bright kid from an obscure background who might some day make a difference.  

John McNellis
Parent Council Chair
Parent Council Luncheon
November 7, 2008