In my previous two blogs, I have predicted that the Class of 2009 will enter a world in which the whole idea of the news media will be radically different from at present, that citizen activism will be more diffuse through the opportunities that new media present to make every person their own commentator (an idea that Thomas Friedman wrote about extensively in “The World is Flat”); I also predict that demographic and economic changes will create new ideas about social class, capitalism and socialism, and that a woman president is quite likely in the lifetimes of our graduates.
Here are my final four predictions for the Class of 2009:
7. 65 is the new 45….
…and as a result, the new retirement age will be 75 or 80… It’s not just a factor of the economy and perils to Social Security and pension funds in the recession, it’s also because people are living longer and healthier well into years that once were considered old-old. I know women in their 80’s who are thriving, leading active and productive lives that their grandmothers could not have imagined.
So, graduates, get ready to work well beyond your parents’ or grandparents’ retirement ages…. and remember that the job you have now is probably NOT the career you will have ten years hence!
8. Charter Schools Will Replace Public Schools
Are you kidding? Not really. Not for the most troubled of our nation’s urban school systems, starting here in D.C. The charter school movement is not going away, and the reform of urban public education is not moving forward quickly enough to guarantee success for the current and next generations of pupils. Low income parents who can’t afford private schools but can’t imagine leaving their children in low-performing public schools find charters to be an acceptable alternative.
Catholic schools were a good alternative in D.C. when the voucher program came along, but sadly, Congress has indicated an intention to end this program. The leadership of our local Catholic schools is lobbying hard to get Congress and the White House to relent, but chances are that D.C. students five years from now will be back at square one, choosing between public schools or charter schools. My prediction is that, like it or not, charters will enroll even more students in the future unless something truly dramatic happens to create the change necessary to turn-around public schools more quickly.
9. U.S. Troops will still occupy Iraq and Afghanistan…
Is this prediction too bleak? I just think it’s reality. While the Obama Administration has put the wheels in motion to reduce troop strength in Iraq, the situation remains volatile enough that complete withdrawl seems unlikely. Afghanistan is dangerous, and the issues in Pakistan are even more so. The Middle East, Central and South Asia remain complicated and dangerous places, home to terrorist leaders and significant opportunites for international conflict. American security interests will require a continued presence for years to come.
10. The Catholic Church will embrace significant change in its workforce…
No, I’m not predicting women’s ordination… at least not in my lifetime. Probably not even an end to celibacy for priests. But the decline in vocations has already forced many changes in the once-venerable structures of parishes and dioceses, and the rise of the “era of the laity” has resulted in significantly more lay women and men engaged with Church leadership than ever before. The greatest changes in leadership have already occurred in Catholic schools, colleges and universities where lay leaders now dominate positions that once were exclusively reserved for clergy and religious. Lay ministers of far-flung parishes are increasingly common as priests ride circuit to say Mass and bring sacraments to multiple congregations. While change in the Church is always quite slow, the increasing numbers of lay leaders in the workforce will eventually force change in the way the hierarchy relates to its vast congregation, and the laity will be able to participate more fully in developing the policies and practices governing the daily organization. Doctrine will remain the province of Church leaders, but increasingly, the routine life of Catholics will be among the faithful ministering to each other, not mediated by Father or Sister.
The Class of 2009 moves ahead with their degrees into a world full of challenge, constant change, and many opportunities for leadership. What has not changed at all across the generations is the continuous demand for servant leaders of keen intelligence, absolute integrity, and broad compassion. Such leaders have been Trinity’s pride through the years, and we have every reason to expect that the Class of 2009 will continue this grand tradition for decades to come.