When I was your age ...
A stream of advice undoubtedly follows that short preface, and it's often made without consideration for just how much the world has changed in the years that separate us from our youth.
As a college kid, I vowed not to be that parent who always waxed poetically about glory days. I promised to remain current with all the next generation deemed hip and cool.
What a laughable prediction. I have become what I contempt, doling out wisdom like a sage with a long white beard who just awoke from a 40-year slumber.
Every now and then, however, I try to remind myself that it's a different game for my teenage sons. As much as I want to believe I'm not that old, I find myself coming to grips with the fact that they live in a different era.
The West Point Society — Florida West Coast Chapter recognizes this reality. The group of graduates from the U.S. Military Academy could exist just to swap old war stories, but it goes beyond the fellowship. Each year, they host a Leadership and Ethics Conference for some of the area's top high school juniors.
Students from various high schools gathered at the University of Tampa's Vaughn Center last week for a one-day seminar on essentially doing the right thing. It's not a recruiting event for the service, but rather an effort to give youth needed tools to make good choices.
Not only does the chapter realize today's kids could benefit from the lessons that have served them so well, but they also acknowledge the need for someone more in tune with today's youth. Current cadets from West Point serve as facilitators for various sessions.
"Us old people need to be careful," said Donald Lionetti, a former three-star general and past chapter president. "We can't think that we know all the answers. Young people have different ethical and leadership challenges than we had when we were young.
"It's incumbent upon us to understand what the pressures are on these young students and what's driving them in order to help them establish character and leadership."
As Lionetti noted, ours was a generation without Facebook or the Internet. Bullying existed, but it's far more prevalent today. The cadets and the students reviewed these topics and other ethical situations they're likely to face today.
At the end of the seminar, different student groups performed skits based on the ethical scenarios they reviewed.
"It was one of the best experiences I've had so far," said Leto High junior Edward Oman.
Fellow Leto junior Daniella Pena, who did a role play about twin girls dealing with the temptation of drugs, said her only regret was that the session didn't last longer.
"Even though we're all teenagers, we have to keep our head on our shoulders," said Pena, who hopes to attend the University of Florida and eventually earn a sports management degree from Duke. "I think that we need to help other people be as ethical as possible. ... I want to help other people do that."
Pena's words reflect the chapter's goals. They choose juniors in the hopes that when they become leaders next school year, they can set examples and offer encouraging words.
As keynote speaker, West Point graduate and Celestar chief executive office Greg Celestan explained West Point's cadet honor code serves as a simple yet demanding beacon: "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do."
Words to live by, even in an ever-changing world.
That's all I'm saying.