Fortune Magazine Pleads: Heed the Authentic Cry of Our Youth
by Bob Schwartz
It is January 1969. Fortune, one of the world’s most conservative business magazines, publishes a special issue about Youth in Turmoil. It then adapts the issue into a book, with an image of a flame on the cover.
The message is not, as you might expect, about how these ungrateful long-haired drug-addled rebels are destroying the country. On the contrary, the message is that these young people are trying to tell us something important and we should listen—before it’s too late.
Here is the introduction:
American youth is trying to tell us something important. The brightest of our young men and women are telling us that as far as they are concerned the choices for our society are narrowing rapidly. We can, at worst, look ahead to a future, very near, in which they lose all heart for our national effort, thus robbing it of its nerve, vitality, and point—a state of affairs in which they range themselves against us either in violence or in withdrawal. Or we can heed the cry of these young adults. Though often marred by shrillness, arrogance, and negativism, that cry is authentic and valid in its central message. It tells us that in our rush to well-being we have left much undone at the same time we have made so much more do-able. It tells us that we should rechannel our enormous energies to deal with the lengthening list of environmental and social grievances. If we can enlist these young idealists and they can enlist us, the nation will evolve toward a life style that once again sets a new standard for the world. I hope that this book, adapted from the January, 1969, special issue of FORTUNE, will contribute to that mutual enlistment.
MANAGING EDITOR, FORTUNE
Please read this word-for-word. It is extraordinary. This is a bible of the establishment, during one of our most anti-establishment times, acknowledging that many things are wrong—including environmental and social problems—and admitting that young people are trying to remind us of our responsibilities to make it right. If the establishment fails, Fortune says, “We can, at worst, look ahead to a future, very near, in which they lose all heart for our national effort, thus robbing it of its nerve, vitality, and point—a state of affairs in which they range themselves against us either in violence or in withdrawal.”
Consider how far we have come. Youth seems to be somewhat disaffected, maybe even having lost heart and been robbed of its nerve—but not exactly in turmoil. Much of the conservative establishment would now never dream of agreeing that we have justifiable environmental and social grievances, let alone that these should be aggressively addressed.
The Sixties are variously celebrated, trivialized, and even laughed at. Maybe it’s funny to see a Big Business publication like Fortune willing to open its eyes, look around, and decide that these kids just might have a point and we can do a whole lot better. Or maybe it’s a little sad that we don’t see more of that today.