Ron recently sat down for an interview with the Reddit community and shared all his thoughts on how much the world has changed during his lifetime. In his own words: "I am 90 years old--An officer during WWII, a retired educator, and more engaged with society today than I've ever been before."
What event in your lifetime had the largest impact on you?
“First, the fact that in college I hurt my back playing basketball and thus was physically unable to be called back into the Marine Corps to go to Korea. It probably saved my life. But I have only the highest regard (and that of guilt) for those who did serve in that painfully horrible conflict. And second, after my fiancé — the first girl I ever kissed — returned her engagement ring because she wanted to experience being a liberated female — and then later “accepted” a second ring and remained my wife until she died.”
Would you say your love for your new partner is the “same” as the love you had for your late wife of 43 years?
“OMG! I love the new social media–such a fascinating way to connect, yet so sterile in its ability for us to get acquainted. And (not even fearing that my current partner will read this) I must say that love is NEVER the same. Life was different/we were each different before. I’ve experienced life and pleasure with Linda I never did before. Since we both lost a previous spouse we appreciate joys more deeply and endure pain more deeply than before.”
Do you feel others of your generation are missing out on today’s technological advancements? Or do you believe things such as social media are largely overrated?
“Yes and no! If those in my generation are not using the social media then they are missing out on something. But you can’t blame them, it is difficult for oldsters and I could not manage it were it not for my grandson helping me every couple of weeks. And I believe the social media as it’s presently used is overrated and underrated. There is a time and place for everything, and I sometimes think it’s like a new child’s toy. Yet I think they have only begun to find their use as an instrument for furthering democracy and good government. Remember Egypt and the ‘revolution.’ I fear that what we are missing today is the social glue that Robert Putnam talks about it in his book, ‘bowling alone’ and ‘our kids’ that talks about what we lack today in American society – two books that Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute says are two of the most important books published recently.”
Have you recently felt sexual attraction to a person? Or does that just fade out of life at a certain age?
“The joy of seeing beauty is no respecter of age.”
You’ve seen a lot of things through the years. What, in your opinion, was the worst fashion trend?
“The zoot suit. We even had a great song about it in the 40’s. But I also feel a BAD trend was the plainness of men’s clothes most of my life. Today we begin to burst out of that fashion with better looking stuff–think of the variety of men’s shoes today. Of course this is only from a male point of view about men’s clothes.”
Has your opinion on Germany changed much since the war ended?
“I can only marvel at the rebuilding of that country and their determination to build a better society. I was also tremendously impressed recently as I entertained visitors from Germany in DC at how much respect they had that America entered wars to protect and help countries that were threatened by the Nazis and other evils.”
You have seen America change so much. Did you ever think we would have a black president? Do you think America is headed in a good direction?
“The current social, political and international scene fills me with despair because I have thrilled at the trajectory of American society. Growing up in Texas with segregated drinking fountains along with almost everything else, I have truly felt the trajectory has been in a positive direction. What a thrill for me to volunteer at the White House visitor Center and see scores of African-Americans feeling for the first time that the White House is truly the house for all Americans. I marvel at the strengths of our president in standing up to the vitriol that is thrown in his direction. I resonate to Michelle’s statement — for which she was damned — ‘for the first time I truly feel proud of my country.’ However, I sometimes wonder if we will truly move forward or regress in this next election.”
What technology out there today just blows your mind?
“Easy! Those cell phones that can call Huber and give specific directions for getting from place to place — and a host of other things that I don’t know about and I’m too old to learn.”
In your opinion, was the atomic bomb necessary to end the Pacific War?
“Such a fascinating question for me personally with deep meaning. Necessary to end the war? Of course not! But did it save my life and at what cost to others/or lesser casualties–I don’t know. I do think THE BOMB has caused the world to look more reasonably at the horror of war and the need to agree to controls. In my own life it has been a part of my DNA to support anything/everything I possibly can to bring peace and understanding in the world.”
What is the single technological advancement that you feel has been the most important in your lifetime?
“It seems to change almost every decade. First it was the automobile then the airplane then the credit card then the computer. How can I choose between them especially when there are some I am probably not even aware of? But in taking 30 seconds to try to reflect on the thing that has changed the face of America more than any other for me personally, I would almost have to say it’s the automobile.”
Which decade has been your favorite and why?
“I find the excitement of the present decade hard to beat except for the extreme polarization of our country. Life is exciting even at 90 years of age except when I consider not only the polarization of our country but the poverty and frustration I see for so many people. To try to answer your question I must say that each decade had new thrills and challenges. Showing my age and failure to keep up with changes in society, I’ll always remember what a fascinating young atress Char was. Sometimes I wonder what’s happened to her today and other times I decide that maybe I don’t want to know.”
I’m curious–how does it feel to get old? I know that’s a blunt question, but do you feel there’s discrimination against the elderly?
“Perhaps the reason I love getting old is that I have been blessed by continuing to relate to young people in my volunteer work, in my church and in my family. Rather than envy feeling discriminated against I feel I am given a great many privileges–the senior discounts really should be for young families.”
When you served in WWII, did you sense that more attention and even supplies and support went to European Theater than to the Pacific?
“I really prefer not to second-guess the decisions made in those critical times. However, it may have been one of America’s finest moments. While we were most immediately threatened by Japan, I truly believe the greater threat to civilization was in Europe.”
As a young person today, I find it really hard to be anything but pessimistic about our current state of affairs (environment, the economy, international entanglements, domestic issues out the wazoo, etc). Are things really as bad as they seem?
“Indeed, in many ways I agree with your assessment of world conditions today. I sincerely feel the issues we face are even more difficult than those of the 1940s. However, just as then, I feel the answers can be found through the resources and knowledge that we have available to us. We must look to science and change and education to solve our problems and individually do all we can to move our country and the world in the right direction. In many ways things are better today for more people than they were in the past, we are just made much more aware of what is going on around us. As I look back, I know I have not changed the world in my lifetime but the simple things that I was doing conscientiously in my family and my community have contributed to making the world better. It’s vitally important that we find strength in a belief system built upon the value of all individuals.”
What gets better the older you get?
“The opportunity to take life at a slower pace and reflect on the broader issues confronting the world.”
Given the enormous technological and social shifts you’ve experienced, do you have any advice for younger people likely to see similar shifts in our lifetime? How do you keep up with it all?
“I really don’t keep up, but I have depended upon my grandchildren to keep me a bit ‘in the loop.’ My advice would be to make sure you are still keeping in touch with the views and values of the older generation.”