leaders

Hope for the Future: Connecting with the Next Generation of Leaders

By Deke Copenhaver

Let’s face it, having the courage to lead with a willingness to be tolerant of other’s views while focusing on reconciliation at all levels seems to be in short supply these days. I would submit to you that blindly following any one ideology in business or politics will never lead to innovation and is certainly not the cure for political polarization. Sometimes it’s easy for me to see why a great many people now doubt that real change is possible in the world as a whole and have adopted the old “it is what it is” mentality.

Believe me, I get it. I’ve gone out on plenty of limbs in my endeavors to challenge the status quo just to have them sawed out from under me and I’ve got the scars to prove it. However, I honestly believe positive change for the better in our nation and in others is not only possible; it’s inevitable. I say this because I’ve listened to the voices of a new generation of up and coming leaders who are simply fed up with the status quo and are willing to work together to change it. Whether it be addressing toxic global political polarization or a win-at-all-costs mindset of some in the business world, this generation is not only ready for positive change but also willing to roll their sleeves, get their hands dirty, and initiate it.

This past fall, I learned that the University of Texas El Paso’s Student Engagement and Leadership Center had found my book and incorporated it into their “Powerful Pages” program for the semester. Having this happen organically and seeing students begin to post pictures on Instagram of themselves reading the book simply touched my heart. After reaching out to the UTEP SELC’s Coordinator for Student Leadership and Inclusion, Jules Flores, I learned that an intern of hers named Victoria Badillo had discovered the book after being asked to find a current and relevant book on leadership to use for the program. Last November I had the opportunity to video conference in with some of the students for their last meeting. The conversation was extremely positive and encouraging. As we closed a young lady from Vietnam named Yiyu Liao told me “I have a tear in my eye. You have given me hope in politics again.” Next month, I’ve been invited to speak at UTEP and needless to say I’m extremely excited to share a message of hope and inspiration with students and faculty alike.

Several weeks ago, I came across an opinion piece in USA Today by a young lady named Amanda Shafer entitled “’Fake governance’ has plagued my generation. Here’s how we rise above it”. I was fascinated by how Amanda’s views of political polarization mirror my own. However, more so than that, I was encouraged to learn of a non-profit Amanda is a part of called BridgeUSA which currently has chapters on seventeen college campuses in the United States and more in Europe through their affiliate BridgeEurope. The organization seeks to work with “America’s future leaders on college campuses to foster spaces wherein a diverse range of ideas can engage one another through the practice of responsible discourse.” After reading the article and researching the tremendously necessary initiative BridgeUSA is undertaking, I reached out to Amanda to applaud the work that the organization is doing as well as to offer my help with their efforts in whatever way they see fit.

When speaking to a Political Science class at Augusta University recently I was asked by a young lady if hope and change were possible given the climate of the world we’re living in these days. My reply was that no endeavor or enterprise built around anger, greed, or seeking power is ever truly sustainable. I then shared with her that it is her generation, a generation not yet completely jaded by the world around them, that gives me hope and inspiration that over time positive change will come and that brighter days lie ahead. I said this with no irony nor doubt. I said it simply because I believe it based on my experiences I’ve highlighted above and many more I’ll continue to document and share as I firmly believe the world can always use a little more hope.