Thanks, Oberlin, It’s Been ... Ah, Educational

To the Editor:

I remember when I first realized that most of the kids at Oberlin were children of parents who were kids in the ’60s. It was my second visit to Oberlin and I was sitting in a Co-op finishing a vegan meal (a first) listening to a conversation regarding parents who were pro-active (didn’t have that word back then) during the ’60s and I thought, “Shit, this sounds all too familiar.” Joining the conversation I realized that possibly I had actually met some of these parents in D.C., Chicago, San Francisco or Woodstock (oops, didn’t go there) or at least passed a joint with them. It was then that I realized I had picked the best school to attend.
Up until Oberlin I, like most of my generation, had gone on with my life keeping some of the long ago egalitarian ideals but compromising others for sake of family and survival. I’ve always thought of myself as a liberal, but then came my first year at Oberlin and an updated spin to the definition. 
I should add that I was fortunate in that my daughter would invite/allow me to visit at times other than the obligatory “Parents Weekend” so I would pop in for a weekend a couple of times a year. With my fourth year coming to a close I now choose to reminisce (one of the privileges of old age). 
I’ve met and become friends with so many new people and ideas. Kids with similar ideals that I had at the same age. Kids whose parents are doctors, professors, sculptors and scientists, but kids whose parents, all a bit odd, have always been cutting edge and never quite fit in with today’s conspicuous consumers. And our children, the ’90s kids, remind me of all that was good from the ’60s. We could not have asked for a better bunch. These guys have it all; the manners, the inquisitiveness, the brains and some of them unbelievably don’t even drink or do drugs which is both totally admirable and at the same time very weird. 
During my four years I’ve helped prepare meals, two times, in co-ops and received the much deserved applause for a job well done (although they could have sharper knifes). I’ve seen a gay and lesbian play with students writhing naked on the floor and another dressed in drag who later became my daughter’s housemate. I sat in at the SIC club looking at a picture book depicting how to properly put on a condom. Eaten at the Feve more times then I would like to admit. Eaten more vegetarian meals than I can remember. Learned how to prepare a mean tofu meal. Been baby-sat by my daughter’s friends while sharing a few beers during a Friday afternoon happy hour. Walked the campus with Pipo (enough said). Bantered a bit with Fred Phelps or Brother Jed. Sat under the Memorial Arch (the same one these ’90s kids will walk under on May 28th) discussing, with a student who has inside knowledge of China, the realities of the Boxer Rebellion and the missionaries’ real mission. Received an e-mail from a student with information on how to apply for a job as a fire lookout in Oregon, a life long dream and one that will come true (I too have read The Dharma Bums). And got to visit Kent State where 31 years ago there was an incident which almost made me give up on America and my ideals.
But the one event, the highlight of my four years at Oberlin, came when my daughter announced she was going to Vietnam and I as a parent was actually excited and proud for her and even offered to help finance the trip. Talk about full circle. Times truly have changed and the ideals we fought for in the ’60s have not been for naught. That event and the weekly e-mails from Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a. Saigon), Da Nang and Hanoi showed me that you ’90s kids have created your own legacy and some day your kids are going to be sitting around talking about the ’90s and the early ’00s (pronounced aughts). This is what is truly good with the world so never lose the dream. 
So I just wanted to say thanks Oberlin. It certainly has been … ah, educational. You have good taste in students and more importantly people. Keep up the good work and always remain a liberal school for education and never become a training school for a job. There is plenty of time for that.

–Patton Abbe 
Class of ’70 (WPI) and ’01 (Oberlin)


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