Mending the Gap: Third Annual Intergenerational Forum to Address Trio of Pressing Topics
After leaving a monthly meeting approximately seven years ago with his men’s group, Retired Old Men Eating Out (ROMEO), where the members discuss important topics such as world affairs, politics and the environment, island resident Fred Danziger pondered what would differ if the same questions were to be discussed with a group of high school students.
“I thought that wouldn’t it be great if instead of us just meeting and discussing these issues, why don’t we ask the same questions that we ask once a month to each other to a group of high school students?” said Danziger. “… We have a lot of young minds out there that might have different opinions than ourselves.”
This vision soon began to unfold into a reality after Danziger spoke with Publisher of The Daniel Island News, Sue Detar, at a lecture they were both attending. Detar immediately grasped onto the concept. From there, the Intergenerational Forum (IGF), sponsored by The Daniel Island News with support from the Daniel Island Community Fund, would be established in 2016.
“I have great memories of learning from my grandparents and other older family friends and know that a lot of families do not have that same opportunity,” said Detar.
For Danziger, who explained that his most substantial regret in life is the missed moments and lost wisdom from his elders who have passed, specifically his grandfather who grew up in 19th century Russia, the forum, which is in its third year, is a way to provide and strengthen the relationship between the different generations today.
“I wish I would have asked them questions,” said Danziger. “I can’t just go on Google and google my grandfather, who is no longer here, and ask how it was living in Russia…These people are gone now and it’s really a shame that you can’t get that information back. I don’t want that to happen with the generations now.”
Taking place on Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. at the Bishop England High School Performing Arts Center, this year’s forum will bring together five senior citizen panelists and five junior and senior area high school students to discuss three topics, including the environment, stress in America and problems facing their generation. Like last year, the panelists will also be asked a fourth question, added Danziger. That is, “What did you learn from each other?”
The students will be competing for a total in $1500 in grant funding, with the first place winner receiving $1000 and the second place winner, $500. The winners will be determined by a panel of three judges, including past judge Principal of Philip Simmons Middle School Anthony Dixon, education consultant and college counselor Claire Law and retired attorney, college professor, and former IGF panelist Thomas Pinckney.
For Dixon, who judged the forum last year, what is most intriguing about the platform that the event provides is the bridge it is able to build between generations.
“I’ve always had an affinity towards the older generation and learning from them,” said Dixon. “I’ve also always had an affinity towards the relationships that you can garner from mentorship and those conversations… These young people will soon be in charge, running our country, society and world. Having these conversations open up their minds to different viewpoints.”
The panel of students, which for the first time includes high school juniors, are Zachary Kronsberg from Academic Magnet; Savannah Wray from Academic Magnet; Bryn Gerding from Academic Magnet; Shelbie Hughes from Hanahan High School; and Jaryn Valdry from Wando High School. Zach Wallace-Wright from Academic Magnet is the alternate panelist.
“We have expanded it to the junior class because they might find the forum beneficial to use when applying for college,” said Danziger.
After receiving feedback from attendees on a survey post last year’s event requesting there be more diversity within the panelists, specifically the senior citizen panelists, Danziger explained that while it has been difficult, they were able to address that concern.
“The first year we had one female panelist and the second year there were no females,” said Danziger. “This year, we have two female senior panelists. The one negative comment or positive criticism we received was that we needed more diversity and we’ve worked on that.”
The senior citizen panelists include Marilyn Geiger, a retired attorney and small business owner; Arnold Freilich, a financial consultant and president of S.C.O.R.E. of Charleston; Ted Kinghorn, a member of the Isle of Palms Town Council, business investor, and former government affairs consultant; Harold “Skip” Crane, a Seabrook Island Town Councilman and retired IBM manager/executive; Linda Hite, a retired math teacher; and, the alternate, Nicholas Pappas, a sales and marketing executive.
The third edition of the IGF comes at a troubling time in America, occurring less than a month after the deadly shooting of 17 staff and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, something that strikes the student panelists a little too close to home. Ron Silverman, a member of ROMEO and IGF committee member, who wrote the question regarding stressors in America, hopes to see some discussion between the generations specifically regarding this topic.
“The whole idea of IGF is that years ago, a lot of older people didn’t listen to younger people because they thought they had nothing to offer, but today, it’s totally different,” said Silverman. “Gun control is a case where older people have not been able to rally enough forces to do something about gun control. These students who went through it are, in my opinion, mounting what could be a nationwide effective movement to finally do something about gun control. It just illustrates that we should not discount students and the younger generation. That’s what one of major points of having the IGF is: To get a good perspective of who the students of today are.”
• The environment…
Should our country be involved in efforts to protect the Earth’s environment? If yes, why and how? If not, why not? What competing interests come into play?
• Stress in America…
According to a recent report by the American Psychological Association entitled “Stress in America: The State of our Nation: “Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say the future of the nation is a very or somewhat significant source of stress. The report further states, “The uncertainty and unpredictability tied to the future of our nation is affecting the health and well-being of many Americans. The most common causes are health care, the economy, trust in government, hate crimes, crime, wars/conflicts with other countries, and terrorist attacks in the United States.”
1. How is your sense of well-being and that of your generation? Is it suffering due to some or all of the stressors mentioned above? Or are there other stressors?
2. How stressed are you about the future of our nation and what might you do, what might our community do, and what might our nation’s leaders do, to help brighten the outlook for the future of our country?
• Important issues…
What do you see as the most important issue facing your generation? Why is it important? How would you go about addressing a solution?