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DayeTime: Passing the torch

When I was not even in school yet, the President told the nation that the “torch has been passed to a new generation.”

John F. Kennedy was talking about his generation, what has become known as the “Greatest Generation” and often called the “World War II generation.”

Since JFK spoke those inspiring words in his 1961 inaugural address, that “torch” has been passed to the Vietnam War generation.

Soon, those born after that war will dominate the leadership positions in this parish, state and nation. Not long after that, those born in this century will take over.

Avoyelles Parish already has one of the state’s youngest -- if not THE youngest -- elected official in 20-year-old Stanley Celestine Jr., who is in his first term on the School Board.

In October, Jacob Coco, 26, became another young leader on a parishwide panel.

Coco was once hailed as the state’s youngest elected official when he was elected to the Simmesport Town Council at the age of 22. He will resign from the council prior to taking the oath of office for Police Jury District 9 in January.

This came to mind as I was thinking about the changes at the Police Jury, where three “new” jurors were defeated in their first re-election campaigns.

That’s the nature of politics. You win, you lose.

I measure politicians as either being “younger than me” or “older than me.”

At almost 64, I remember well when almost everyone in office was in the second group. That’s no longer the case.

Of the three new jurors who will take their seats in January, two are in the “younger than me” group and one, who is returning to the jury after a few terms sitting out, is in the other one.

Of the six who are returning for another term, I think all of them are in the “older than” camp -- but not by much.

I have noticed that Celestine -- it’s hard not to call him Stanley, since I remember when he was a LaSAS middle school student conducting science and math workshops for elementary kids -- has not let his lack of years keep him from speaking up on issues.

I have also noted that the older board members don’t dismiss his comments as the cute ramblings of a precocious child.

He is a vital member of the board, even if he is half the age of most of his fellow board members.

Coco has been a leader on the Simmesport Council since he was just a lad. He will no doubt ably fill the shoes of Henry Moreau, who was never shy about speaking his mind on issues even when he was outnumbered.

This is also a time where we reflect on what we have done in the past and what will happen in the future.

During one of those times of reflection, I noted to myself how many World War II veterans I have interviewed over the past six years since I returned to this area. There have been quite a few. Sadly, most of them have passed away.

We don’t have any elected leaders “born in this century,” as Kennedy said in his “torch is passed” speech, but we’re coming close.

For those getting ready to start their race as leaders and to those already mid-way through their relay, I will close with the full quote that I have referenced. It is one of the most inspiring, and most defining, statements ever made about what it means to be America and to be an American.

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."

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