Empowering the Next Generation: What’s our role?

18 11 2010

I recently had a “Next Decade” meeting with my good friend Tom Barron, also known as T.A. Barron.  Tom is one of the most interesting and creative people I know.

After growing up outside of Colorado Springs, Tom attended Princeton University.  He received a Rhodes Scholarship and studied at Oxford University.  Then, he got a joint law and business degree from Harvard.  Upon completing his formal education, Tom went into business in New York and ran a very successful private equity firm.

In the 1980s, Tom “retired” from his first career in the business world.  He moved back to Colorado to become a writer.  In the last 21 years, Tom has published 24 books.  I think I have read all of them.  Tom’s specialty is fantasy; he has written a series of books about the adventures of young Merlin.

Tom has a passionate love for nature and the outdoors.  In the early 1980s, he climbed to the base camp of Mount Everest.  During his ascent, Tom crossed paths with Sir Edmund Hillary, who was descending from the base camp.  Hillary led the first expedition to the summit of Mount Everest and had returned to the base camp more than 25 years later.

When I met with Tom and asked him about the future of The Denver Foundation, I anticipated that his recommendations would revolve around protecting the environment.  Somewhat to my surprise, Tom’s advice was quite different.  He suggested that The Denver Foundation focus on empowering young people. 

In Tom’s opinion, we face enormous challenges in many areas.  He believes that the key to meeting those challenges lies with the younger generations.  Tom’s advice is to give young people the confidence that they have the ability and the power to make the world a better place.

He noted that empowerment is an issue that crosses all demographic groups.  The need to empower young people is important in the most privileged socioeconomic groups as well as the least privileged socioeconomic groups in our society.

Empowerment also transcends issues.  Tom notes that young people are individual bundles of positive energy.  If they feel empowered, they will tackle the issues that are of most interest to them.  Collectively, this young energy and idealism will be the key to addressing the many problems we face.

Tom’s ideas struck a very responsive chord for me.  Every time I meet with young people, I get inspired.  Perhaps The Denver Foundation should devote more resources in the coming decade to empowering our younger generations.  What do you think?

— David Miller, President and CEO, The Denver Foundation

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3 responses

19 11 2010
Mary Sissel

This is a great message, and I am proud that The Denver Foundation has had that lens for a few years. There are, however, many more ways in which to empower the next generation,and I suggest that it could be a possible major focus in the near future, one which might provide a substantial infusion of energy and new ideas.

20 11 2010
Dee Andrews

Most definitely! Empowering youth to problem solve, be independent, and see the world from many perspectives is so important. I think the Denver Foundation and all community foundations are a great place to empower youth to take an active part in their communities and experience first-hand what their contributions achieve.

25 11 2010
Sara

This is so important! The empowerment of young people lies at the heart of moving our communities forward. By the way we currently celebrate the International Year of Youth (August 2010 – 2011). You might want to check out what is being planned in organized in different parts of the world to promote youth development.
http://social.un.org/youthyear/index.html

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