Closing Thoughts: Passing the Baton
Closing ThoughtsOpinion

Closing Thoughts: Passing the Baton

When you get the baton, take it as far as you can go.

Allen H. Lipis
Allen H. Lipis

My grandfather came to the U.S. as an immigrant more than a hundred years ago, though only much later did I see him as a man searching for a better life for his family. I didn’t realize that he was carrying forward what he had been taught by his family. I never explored his reasons for immigrating except to recognize that he wanted something better for his family that was not possible in post-World War I Romania.

That was my Zeyda, my mother’s father. He carried his life forward as far as he could, raising eight children, half of them born in Europe and half in the U.S. He offered them a new life in a new country with new possibilities, but he could only take his family so far. He had little education and managed to run a small fruit market. It was as far as he could go, so he handed over the baton to his children to allow them to move their family’s lives to a better place, which they did.

My father’s father also came to the U.S. with his family, including my father. My father was encouraged to take the baton he was given and move his family a little farther in bettering our lives. On both sides of my family, the children were encouraged to better themselves and do better than their parents.

All the grownup people from my family who arrived in the U.S. knew no English, did not graduate from American institutions of learning, but still focused on making a better life for their families. Their children, my uncles and aunts, some born in the U.S., and others born in Europe, graduated from high school, but only one went on to college. Many ran small businesses and made decent livings, able to move their families to a better place than their parents could.

The grandchildren — my generation — moved their families to a much higher level, many going to college, and quite a few becoming professionals: doctors, lawyers, teachers and entrepreneurs. The baton was passed to them to do better for their families and to improve upon what their parents did.

And now, with the children of my first cousins, the mission continues: give them a good education and pass the baton to them. Now, with my first cousins and I all entering the twilight of our lives, we can see the baton being passed on to our grandchildren, always with the expectation that they should find a way to better the lives of their families.

While the baton has been passed from my grandparents to their children — and now to their grandchildren — there is a great deal of uncertainty about whether future generations can continue the process. It takes more than a good education to produce better family results. It takes cultural continuity, parental training, dealing with outside forces, dealing with learning issues, and especially failures that are inevitable. Nevertheless, we, the older generation, continue to provide encouragement and remain positive about our children and grandchildren, instilling the objective early on in life to be better than your parents. There is a clear understanding that each child should take the baton as far as they can, and that will be enough.

This is not an easy task, for it is a day-in, day-out process, requiring many years of patience, protection and encouragement. Teachers may tell your children they are not the best, friends may be critical, and employers may not promote them. Children will recognize that other people are better in every respect: smarter, faster, stronger, richer, healthier and more capable. As a parent, we must offer guidance if asked, and provide positive encouragement and financial support according to our ability. As a parent or a grandparent, you may feel, secretly in your heart, that your children and grandchildren may not achieve what you desire. Recognize that you have only a limited amount of time to have an impact, for your job will be finished much earlier than you think. Still, you must be their biggest supporter, always — and I mean always! Just enjoy the process when you know you’ve done your best.

The bottom line: When you get the baton, take it as far as you can go — and then hand it off to the next generation.

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