A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lauren and Rob Hudson: Positive messages for youth — overcome negative outside influences —

Columns for families based on the book “It Can Be Done” @studentsleadusa

None of us are islands unto ourselves, isolated from our environment. In fact, we can’t help but be influenced by outside factors such as media, popular culture, and peers. Unfortunately, these outside factors present special challenges today. Let’s compare how these outside factors worked many years ago in America to how they work now.

A few generations ago, America’s news came through a few radio programs and a hometown newspaper. Educated journalists often reported neutral facts, allowing the reader to reach his or her own conclusions. Today, more of our “news” comes in the form of “advocacy.” Non-journalists and even educated journalists often write to advance a cause, rather than to educate with accurate facts.

Today’s internet and social media have led to more voices, some of which are misguided. Both sides of a debate often use terms like “fake news,” and some news is counterfeit. National controversies have been sparked, in part, based on inaccuracies which groups of people blindly followed. Unless you’re willing to dig deep, it can be hard to get trustworthy facts. The bottom line is that it is easier today for people, young and old, to be misled.

With today’s media, understanding facts versus opinions can be challenging. All we can do is try to “separate the wheat from the chaff,” an old saying which means to find what’s valuable and throw out what’s worthless. Once you learn the true facts, remember another old saying, “People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts.” Fact is fact and truth is truth. Both are worth discovering and defending.

All of us can choose to dial down anger and frustration associated with the latest scandal. A few acts of violence does not make America a nation of thugs. We have laws that deal with physical assaults. A police officer who engages in horrific behavior does not make America’s police officers horrific. We have laws that deal with police officers who act illegally.

It’s often an acceptable response to allow our laws to work rather than permitting a perceived injustice to derail our focus and attention. Put a different way, our primary responsibility will be to take care of ourselves and, someday, our family. We can see the “big picture,” including the best in people and our country.

In addition to news, popular culture all around us has changed over the last few American generations. At one time, much of popular culture focused on old-fashioned movies and comic books with good guy heroes and villains. Stories contrasting good and evil guided many people to model behavior based on their heroes, the good guys.

Today more of our stories tend to be gray with fewer heroes, many of which even celebrate evil and glamorize bad behavior. As we keep buying these stories, people will keep offering them. If more and more people allow negative stories to forge their character, it’s possible they will become more negative.

Finally, peer pressure should not be underestimated as an outside factor that can shape our lives. The energy of youth can include a feeling of invincibility, which can lead to trouble. But today’s negative peer groups can in some ways be far more dangerous. Drug use and addiction can darken a bright future. Sexual promiscuity can damage reputations, with lasting effects on health and relationships, including how we view ourselves and others.

Life is not easy, but one path to success in this world simple to understand. We can choose to apply the pillars of exceptionalism to the best of our ability in our lives. We can apply them as we make decisions, engaging in our own critical thinking. As exceptional people, we can decide not to follow crowds heading in the wrong direction.

Join us next week when we wrap up the series with words of encouragement for America’s next greatest generation. Frost Brown Todd LLC Member Rob Hudson is a Past Chair of the Northern Kentucky Chamber and a recipient of its Frontiersman Award. 2018 Independent Author of the Year Lauren Hudson is a Singletary Scholar at the University of Kentucky.

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