Beyond the Build


Spikes in College Applicants Show American Youth’s True Colors—Red, White and Blue

Since Planting Acorns evolved primarily as a forum to discuss views, encounters and takeaways from my professional life, it’s rare that I have the occasion to mention my family. With that said, I think facets of our personal lives shape the way we think professionally, so it’s important you know I’m a fortunate father of three healthy and reasonably bright children—a high schooler, a college student and a medical student. I’m thankful for a million things about them, including the connection they’ve given me to the next generation of American leaders.

It concerns me when I see the media paint their age group as a self-absorbed, unpatriotic bunch. From my perspective, I feel there’s a spirit that resides in the youth of America. Passion for freedom, patriotism and community has been passed down through our history, and I can’t dream that it skipped this generation. I was glad to get evidence last week.

Just after I posted the piece about our post-hurricane trip to New Orleans, our controller asked if I knew about the recent surge in college applications for New Orleans’ major universities—Tulane, Loyola and Xavier. Before Katrina, Tulane had around 16,000 applicants annually. Now they’re up around 34,000 for a freshman class of 1,400. Xavier is up approximately 20% and Loyola is projecting a 40% increase during the same period.

Post-Katrina, New Orleans has become a place to make a difference, where citizens can be a part of putting a battered community back on track. Judging by the influx of college applicants, our youth clearly want to be involved in this kind of movement.

Tulane has even started a public service requirement for graduation. What does all this tell me? There is a vital force inherent among Americans, no matter their age.  Sometimes it takes adversity to remind us of the common drive that calls us to action, but it’s very much alive in our youth, and it runs deep.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.