Makers of new music, dreamers of new dreams

Young people, “You shall teach us your song’s new numbers.”


In April new leaders take over and younger people move up in organizations throughout Japan. Older people retire or step aside. Me, too. I’m still a teacher, but until yesterday (31 March 2012) I also spent 12 years as a university administrator. Now we older people will, or should, encourage our new leaders as they bring new visions of the future.

One of my favorite poems is Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s Ode, published in 1874. The first two lines are famous:

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,

But it’s not about us. The poem celebrates each new generation that comes with new songs and new dreams. Here’s the final stanza:

Great hail! we cry to the comers
  From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
  And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
  And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
  And a singer who sings no more.

Some middle-aged and older teachers complain about young people, but I feel optimistic as I see each class grow up and contribute new dreams to society. In that sense I’m lucky. Several of my former students are now colleagues, and one of them now chairs an academic department.

As we begin a new academic and business year in Japan, I hope young people will be encouraged, and empowered, to make their own music and to dream their own dreams. History and traditions are important, but let’s remember Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s message to youth:

You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
  And things that we dreamed not before...
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