Intergeneration Wisdom

My project throughout the fellowship was initially inspired by my love for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Le Petit Prince. Among other key messages, the novella emphases the wisdom of children, stating that, “all grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” Netflix made an animated film based on the book in 2015, which features a young protagonist who develops a meaningful relationship with her wise , retired neighbor.

Viewing my upcoming graduation as the cusp of starting adulthood, I entered the fellowship with the intention to bring the movie and book to life and create an environment whereby elementary school, undergraduate, and overgraduate students could learn from one another. Looking back on the experience, I recognize that what I learned from my students has refined my sense of purpose and given me a more profound sense of appreciation of life.

Throughout my time in the fellowship, I was surprised with the similarities between the worldviews of over-graduates and my elementary school students. These similarities shined strongest when talking about how the pandemic has affected each of my students and both generations of students mentioned themes involving a lack of freedom, and a need to focus on the present moment. These responses were notably different from the responses that undergraduate students gave which highlighted a general inability to focus on the present moment out of fears for uncertainties that lie ahead. While it is important not to paint too broad of a picture, such a notable distinction between generations was insightful for me as I contemplated what I will take with me from the fellowship. My observation seemed to breathe life into the quote from Le Petit Prince; adults (including young adults) have much to learn from people older and younger than them!

Being a student at Duke for the past four years, I have witnessed firsthand the value that diversity brings to learning. Living with and learning from students from a variety of backgrounds has informed me more about the world and given me a more comprehensive understanding of my place and purpose in it. However, diversity at a university tends to exclude age as a factor. Last Sunday was the final session of Intergenerational Ethics with OLLI. As each student shared his or her impression of the course, I was touched when many students shared the inter-intergeneration session (the one this fellowship was dedicated to creating) was a highlight. Completing this fellowship, I realized how much I value connecting generations and observing the fruits of such connection.

As I graduate from Duke and join a management consulting firm in New York City, I recognize that my exposure to people who are as diverse in age as my elementary school and over-graduate students will be limited in the workplace. Because of how valuable I now recognize these connections to be, I am committed to searching them out with a high degree of intentionality and a commitment having an open mind and heart. I will hold fast to Le Petit Prince’s wisdom that, “the most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, only felt with the heart.”

Andrew Carlins is a Master of Management Studies student at Fuqua from Oceanside, New York. His research interests involve the intersection of immigration, economic integration, and religion. During the GradEngage Fellowship, Andrew will work with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Beth El Synagogue in Durham to explore ethics and the pursuit of purpose during COVID-19 across three generations. Andrew has a B.S from Duke where he studied Economics, History, and Jewish Studies and graduated with honors and distinction.

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