Janie Cheaney: Youthful passions and mature understandings


KENT COVINGTON, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 23rd. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Kent Covington.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Janie B. Cheaney now on the passions of youth and the discernment that should come with age.

JANIE CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: The musical West Side Story is 60 years old this year, and showing its age. But one scene will always be relevant. It comes after hostility between Sharks and Jets has claimed two lives and threatens more.

“You kids!” exclaims Doc, the owner of the store where the Jets hang out. “You make the whole world lousy!” The default leader of the gang snaps back, “That’s the way we found it, Doc!”

And that’s the perennial cry of disgruntled youth: Look at the world the grownups left us! Youth in the 60s were especially messianic. If the geezers would only listen or get out of the way, we could fix our racial problems and justice problems and violence problems. “All you need is love.”

The grownups said, “It’s not that simple.” And of course they were right, as subsequent decades would show.

The Parkland High School shooting survivors, or those now agitating for gun control, lack that perspective. They also lack a certain level of wisdom and insight. That’s no slam—those qualities come with years and experience. When student activist David Hogg, in a flurry of f-bombs, condemns his elders for ruining democracy, his anger is understandable. But his judgment is, well, youthful.

But grownups who idolize teenage passion and dedication—and even wisdom—should know better. The March for Our Lives and related events draw observers who are sincerely impressed by passionate rhetoric of the young. Why don’t we lower the voting age to sixteen? And in the meantime, let’s register as many 18-year-olds as we can so they’ll be ready to march to the polls in November. Let the children lead us.

Isaiah 11:6 says, “A little child shall lead them.” It’s often seen as the initiation of a golden age. In context, it’s the result of a golden age. When little ones lead lions and lambs, peace has arrived—for them, not because of them. But when youth takes the lead in tumultuous times, it’s not a blessing.

Just the opposite, says Isaiah 3:6: “And I will make boys their princes [says the Lord], and infants shall rule over them.”

It’s been a while since Baby Boomers could say, “That’s the way we found it, Doc.” We are Doc. And someday, our grandchildren will be Doc. Having made the world they live in, for better and for worse, we should listen to them, sympathize with them, teach them, and pray for them. And pray that they never rule over us.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Janie B. Cheaney.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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