Jun 2nd 2012 1:03 PM
Nick Poulos' Discussion Group Notes
IHS CLASS OF 1961 SATURDAY MORNING DISCUSSION GROUP- A
SUMMARY OF THEMES DISCUSSED
Upon leaving high school several of us agreed that we did not have clearly defined goals and that we “backed into” our careers, even though we had earned our undergraduate degrees. We seemed to agree that we were searching for some direction and several of us had transformative experiences, which led to our career choice or life path.
One attendee talked about a transformation taking place in their life that provided direction, and that catalyst was the Viet Nam war. Others of us had transformative experiences later in life and in some cases that transformation was a divorce or other life altering life event.
There seemed to be some consensus that we lived in a protected environment in Ithaca and in our high school experience. We talked about the awakening that began to take place in us over time as we had more life experience. There was almost uniform agreement that we were naïve about life when we left high school. During our school years in Ithaca we faced the nuclear threat and we commented on the diving under the chairs drill that we were required to do in elementary school.
We commented that jobs were never an issue for us. We were always able to find meaningful work, unlike today where many citizens have been laid off or unable to find work for many months and even years. In that regard we felt very fortunate.
There was discussion about the impact of Cornell on our lives with several people commenting on having heard Timothy Leary speak and another who heard Werner von Braun speak when in 9th grade. These experiences were transformative for many of us.
The theme of naïveté came up several times during our discussion, especially in terms of race relations. The discussion was prompted by Sally Fry who had read an article in the Atlanta paper about the Freedom Riders. Here again, we felt insulated and very unaware and uninformed. The theme of naïveté leading to awakening in various ways was discussed at some length in terms of race. One attendee talked about his awakening in terms of people of color while in the military. One of the people he was stationed with was Joseph O’Neill who was one of the four young men who were trying to integrate the Kresgee lunch counter. On the same base was a Lt. Col. who, with his wife were involved in integration efforts in Little Rock, Arkansas. This led to a discussion of white privilege, which we all enjoyed but were totally unaware of. Here is an example. One day, Joe O’Neill was looking at a house to rent for himself and his wife. He married a daughter of one of the Sioux chiefs. He encountered one of our classmates who lived next door to the house that Mr. O’Neill was considering to rent. He asked our classmate if they would rent to him. At first, our classmate did not understand the question. Then he realized, Mr. Mc Neil was trying to determine if he could rent the house based on his color and that he was married to a Native American woman. A startling example of how naïve and unaware of the impact of white privilege that we grew up with.
This led to a discussion about the impact of the Women’s Movement and the emancipation of women on our lives and our relationships. One of the attendees noted that she was the first woman in her family to go to college. Our mothers stayed at home for the most part although some of our classmates had mothers who were pursuing graduate degrees and their own careers. We commented on the care of children being a priority for our generation and the move to daycare in more recent years. One of the attendees noted the muted aspirations for a career or profession for motherhood.
Attendees: Bud Brown, Sue Lyon Ryan and her husband, Sharon Hixson, Sally Fry, Nan Chatfield, Martin Samson, Nick Poulos.