Look out for future generations


Photo: Jessica Opoien/Iowa State

President Barack Obama held a backyard chat to discuss economic issues faced by the middle class, in Des Moines on Sept. 29. The invitation-only chat was hosted by Jeff and Sandy Hatfield Clubb.

Jessica Opoien

It was a perfect Iowa fall day Wednesday when President Barack Obama visited the Des Moines home of Jeff and Sandy Hatfield-Clubb for a backyard chat. Jeff Clubb described it as a “Better Business Bureau” day — clear skies, a light breeze, even an eagle flying overhead.

The Hatfield-Clubbs were touted, in the media frenzy, as a typical Iowa family.

“We feel pretty average,” Clubb said after the event.

On all accounts, this seems to be the case. Hatfield-Clubb is the athletic director at Drake, and Clubb teaches social studies at a Catholic middle school.

Their two children, Tristan, 11, and Skyelar, 9, are growing up in an idyllic upper-middle-class neighborhood. Their parents are thankful their kids can grow up safely, the way they did.

The Hatfield-Clubbs were proud to announce that Tristan was just elected to his school’s student council — he’s the first elected official in the family.

I spoke with Jeff after the backyard chat, and he told me about the excitement among the sixth and seventh grade classes he teaches, at the thought of the president visiting Des Moines. Aside from the lighter questions, like, “Is there really a red button?,” his students raised important issues.

If I were a student in Jeff’s middle school social studies classes, I would want to know one thing: What’s in store for our generation?

Justin Kingkade, a guest at the chat, has a 2-year-old son named Aaden. Amid all the issues in the media focus — health care, taxes, you know the drill — the most important issue to him is knowing that Aaden will be taken care of.

From the conference call Obama conducted with college newspaper editors Sept. 27, to the backyard chat Sept. 29, the president is preaching good news for college students. Plans to make college more affordable, improved access to health care — we have a long way to go, but we’re on the right track.

I’m not going to spend time blaming our generation’s struggle to find jobs — even with a college education — on older generations, although that’s a fair argument. All I ask is that we, as a generation, learn from the mistakes of those before us.

Dolph Hatfield, 73, is Sandy’s father. He came to Des Moines and his daughter’s backyard from Washington, D.C. to attend the visit with Obama. A strong Obama supporter, he’s witnessed a lot of ups and downs over the years.

“I’m optimistic,” Dolph said, “that the president will turn it around and this will be a much better place to live.”

Chances are, we’re on our way out of the woods. But as we become the ones making the decisions, we need to look to the future — so the Tristans and Aadens of the world have something to look forward to.