We all know Kenneth H. Young CD (retired) for his advocacy against Agent Orange and derivative chemicals and his positive voice in defending veterans’ issues, but in this commentary, he expresses his most heartfelt insights gained from his experiences. BONNIE
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
by Kenneth H. Young CD (Ret.)
This report of my participation on Peace Boat # 77 in August 2012 is long overdue but it has to be given now.
Many of you must by now know that my wife and I own and run a Group Home, actually a home for out-of-control teens. These teens, who before the new Youth Justice Act would have been ordered into custody by the courts, are now in care rather than starting life with a criminal record. But this is not what I want to talk about except to say that over the years I had lost faith in our next generation and their ability to function as a society.
I was asked to be an instructor aboard the Peace Boat with the topic of Agent Orange. Mind you I speak more about all of the Defoliation chemicals used in Vietnam and around the world because there were over 28 toxic chemicals used on humanity. Governments quickly registered chemicals for use without proper testing for the sake of war or profit, depending on which country we are talking about.
I was part of a team which included three generations of chemical defoliation survivors or victims depending on your point of view. My personal thoughts are that the victims are dead and buried and those of us still around to continue paying for human stupidity, are in fact survivors. But this also isn’t what I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about what I learnt while aboard the Peace Boat, what gift I received for my participation, and a much needed new outlook of the world’s younger generation.
There were (for the most part) only two generations aboard the Peace Boat. The Young because as in the song, “like a Rock,” they still believed in their dreams and the old who now that they have finished with jobs and raising children find themselves with time to revisit the dreams of their youth. Except for working aboard the boat, the middle-aged were absent, then again who would have time or money to spend as much as four months on a learning cruse, if they have children, a spouse and a mortgage/car loans to deal with.
So I believe that it is safe to say that the ideas, initiative and the drive to improve the world fall upon the young and the old. The implementation of any of these ides falls upon the working, middle-aged and middle-class people.
I was surprised but also elated to find that there are still some young people in this world who care enough to give of both their time and effort to learn and at least try and improve humanity. But I was also pleased at the great number of old-timers like myself who still believe that if they work hard, speak up where it is needed, and vote for the right people to make the changes, they can leave the next generation a lasting legacy and a better world to live in.
I am glad to say that I left the Peace Boat with a new outlook on the world as a whole. I am pleased to say that the next generation may in fact be better than the last one and that the disillusioned, old, and retired people of the world, if we don’t spend all of our time on the couch watching re-runs on TV, make ourselves heard, teach the young what some of the problems are, and make our votes count by voting, not necessarily for the historic political parties, but for the candidate who profess the ideals you do, we may be OK in the end.
I gave my all to the Peace Boat but after I arrived home, I believe I received more from the people I was there to teach, than I gave them.