First, let me say that I was active in LRY from 1972 until its demise at the end of the 70's. In fact, my current business partner Susan Buis was an LRY executive committee member (aka "Taco") during the development of the SCOYP report that led directly to the end of LRY. During my time in LRY, I served as president of my local group and federation, and was one of the planners of the 1977 continental conference (con-con). As Peter Wadsworth (Grasshopper to his LRY friends) already said, LRY changed my life and the lives of most of my friends. I, too, hoped that some day my 10-year old daughter would have the opportunity to experience something similar, but perhaps it is not to be.
As someone who lived through it, I want to take the opportunity to provide a different perspective on some of the accounts here. First of all, Tim and Heather stated:
"Common Ground's legacy is one of adult-enforced restructuring, prompted by the inability of LRY's leadership to address its own internal problems."
I disagree that LRY's failure was an inability to address its own internal problems. In fact, it was just the opposite: LRY was unable to address external problems, namely, the vendetta waged against it by certain members of the UUA power structure. In the mid-late 70's, LRY was large, active and healthy. Con-cons were regularly attended by 350-450 youth from all over the country, and conferences were being offered and well-attended at local, federation and regional levels throughout the country. We had a widely distributed newspaper, people soup, that was entirely youth written and published. We had local groups doing services for their churches, regionally-sponsored leadership development conferences, and a whirlwind of political activities, including promotion of gay-right issues (before anyone had heard of such a thing) and fighting nuclear power. LRY was not perfect. There was plenty of drugs and sex, which was a reflection of the times. However, to say that it was internal problems that brought LRY down is wrong. The UUA clamped down on LRY because it felt threatened by youth autonomy and it wanted to assert more control, clear and simple.
Tim and Heather went on to say:
"Given this context, it's time we acknowledge the possibility that a Common Ground III may result in a drastic restructuring of YRUU, if not its dissolution. We must also recognize, however, that we have the power to learn from LRY's mistakes. We should insist on having the chance to work out our issues in a way that keeps the ball in our court—and then we need to follow through with passion and commitment."
and Tim added later:
"The Youth Office [was] created as a compromise between the leaders of LRY and the UUA when LRY traded its financial independance for denominational support ..."
This is not what happened. LRY leadership had little say in the matter. LRY did not trade it's financial independence for anything; the UUA seized control of LRY finances in a move that many LRYers felt was unethical at best, if not a downright violation of the terms of LRY's financial endowment.
I am not pointing this out to criticize, I am pointing it out because I suspect that history is doomed to repeat itself. I agree with Eric Swanson, who said: "the actual authority to act has been held in the UUA's back pocket". Until the youth can wrest the power back, youth programming will continue to be held hostage to the interests of the UUA. Although I disagree with a lot of what Wayne Arnussen has to say about LRY, I think he accidentally got it right when he said that ""In my opinion, the biggest problem for LRY…was that it lost its institutional memory for how to sustain a strong service program to districts and churches." Not because LRY should have provided better service to the churches and districts, but because LRY's independence alienated church administrators, who reacted to the perceived threat by asserting their authority. Any new youth program will have to do a better job than LRY (or, apparently, YRUU) at staying in the UUA's good graces. Sad to say, the only hope for youth to regain some control is for UUA board members to support such a move, and that will only happen if enough UUA members have good experiences with the youth programs.
When I first came to school at Evergreen State College, one of my professors said, "I know I will have succeeded when my students kick me out of my seminar." Looking forward to the day when the youth run the youth programs again!
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