The Past is Never Better Than the Future

Since 1950, we’ve been through about 11 recessions – a few of them caused by familiar moments in history: the Korean War, Y2K scares of 2000, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and The Great Recession of 2008. If you were alive for any or all of these, I’m sure you can remember some specific details about your life during that time – for example, I think we all can remember where we were on 9/11. At those moments in time, you can’t help but feel like life will never go back to the way it was in the past – and in many ways, it doesn’t. But, history shows that’s a good thing.

Key indicators show the United States has made progress between 1950 and 2020. Here are a few highlights:

  • We’re making more money. (Per capita GDP: 1950 – $1,711, 2020 – $63,647)
  • We’re living longer. (Life Expectancy: 1950 – 68.14 years, 2020 – 78.93)
  • More of us can go to college. (College attendance 1950 – 29%, 2020 – 41%)
  • Fewer of us are living in poverty. (Poverty rate 1950 – 22.5%, 2020 – 12.3%)
  • We don’t tolerate discrimination. (Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on race, religion, sex, color, national origin, and later sexual orientation.)

Go back a little further, and you’ll remember, before 1920, women weren’t even allowed to vote. Fellow females – aren’t we thankful for that right, especially in an election year?

My personal story reflects the stories of so many Americans – a story of generations overcoming a challenging past, heading toward a more promising future. My parents grew up during the Great Depression. My mother graduated high school, but my father dropped out right before the end of his senior year because he didn’t have a suit to wear to graduation. He was the first person from his hometown to be drafted in World War II and was in the first wave to hit Omaha Beach on D-Day. He counted himself grateful to be alive. After graduation, my mother worked at the Bell Companies as a telephone operator. When she and my father married in 1947, she assumed she would continue to work, but was informed that married women were not eligible for employment. My parents’ primary goal was for their three children to attend college—a goal that seemed unattainable to them—and they succeeded, with all three of us not only earning college degrees but all of us also did graduate work.

The purpose of this post is not to say we don’t experience challenging times – I think we can agree 2020 has given us our share of difficult challenges, many unlike we’ve ever experienced before. My goal is to encourage you to look at history – your family history and/or the brief history I’ve included in this post. We have overcome so many obstacles and made this country a better place – over and over again. I’m confident that trend won’t stop with 2020.