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Self-centered? Us?

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Posted: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 12:00 am

News-Sentinel columnist Wade Heath wrote today that "The youth ... take the self-confidence to a new level — one that is sickening and self-serving." He refers, of course, to a recent study which found that this generation is more self-serving and narcissistic than others.

There may be some truth to that. Case in point: The Delta Zeta sorority recently lost their sanctioned status at DePauw University (in Illinois) after they kicked out members who were overweight or minorities for not being attractive enough. Never mind the girls' intense focus on academics and community service or their commitment to the sorority. Looks are apparently more important to some.

However, I think what both the study and Heath have failed to acknowledge are the people in our generation who are doing more than pretending that the world revolves around them. And there are plenty.

For example:

- In September, Teach for America, a program which places recent college graduates in low-income schools to teach, had a record number of applicants and enrollees.

- The Peace Corps reported a double-digit increase in the number of volunteers in many states; many of their volunteers are young people in their mid-twenties.

- In San Diego, senior Jessica Pliego was recently recognized for the volunteer work she does with her low-income apartments and the Encinitas Boys & Girls Club.

- 16-year-old A.J. Jackson, a student at Enterprise High School, which was hit by a tornado a couple of weeks ago, gave up his life to save a girl he barely knew from a falling concrete beam. Two other students also acted heroically, though they were not killed.

- And last, but far from least, are all of the men and women of our generation who have joined the armed forces. Some, including six local boys in their late teens and early twenties, have already given their lives in the service of others.

I don't know. Maybe we are more narcissistic. But this narcissism has taught our generation that we can make a difference in the world, that we have the power to cause change for the better. Many choose to ignore that power, but many, many others are out there doing their best to fix the world's problems.

If believing we have that ability makes us narcissistic, then I'm not so sure being "self-centered" is a bad thing.