In my extended department at work, we periodically welcome new team members by asking them to present a single Ppt. “About Me” slide . Just a few facts like where you live, what your hobbies are, etc. It’s meant to provide some reference for when you casually bump into the person you can start a friendly welcoming conversation. My company has a grueling interview process to be sure we’re taking on people who are not only (over) qualified for the job, but can also jump onto a high-speed train when its already rolling and figure out how to keep the engine stoked while simultaneously changing the course of the tracks to get to a better place.* If a person can make it to hire after that, they will have no trouble coming up with a few conversation starters to put on the slide, nor using what they read on others to open a casual talk. In other words, we hire the best and brightest overachievers you ever saw.
At the most recent meeting where this welcome ceremony took place, one new person – a lovely young girl from Washington state – displayed her slide, spoke to a few of the points on it and then arrived at the one that was obviously her big finish: she was a direct descendant of Chief Joseph.
What I’m going to tell you next is a shame.
When the new person dropped the Chief Joseph bomb, she paused obviously anticipating a big reaction. Instead, what she got was a room full of 25 to 35 year olds (and me on a Webex connection) looking at each other and mumbling Chief Joseph? Who is Chief Joseph?
Dear Lord! I am dumbstruck almost daily about what the upcoming generations don’t know, even the best and the brightest among them. References to things you would think are deeply ingrained parts of American life, history or culture waft above them while they disinterestedly sip vile potions from their yeti cups and check their text messages.
I can’t swear to it but I think I heard someone hazard a guess about little orange baby aspirins but on the whole, they were not only ignorant of the facts but completely uninterested in finding out.
You would think that even if they had no knowledge about the chief himself, then surely they must have seen the famous Pendleton blanket pattern. Failing that, chances are more than 50-50 that a heartless Etzy vandal cut up one of the iconic blankets to make organic beer koozies or reusable sandwich bags and they would have brushed up against a reference that way.
It’s a big world, kids and everything is related to everything else. Don’t lose the thread.
*I really have to retire. This is how I think now.
Note: The title is a joke just for me. My department is informally known as Team Atlas because we support the whole company. I hope I don’t have to explain to you who Atlas is.