Archived Opinion

Let’s encourage young adults to engage

Let’s encourage young adults to engage

Many readers know or suspect that Hannah McLeod, who has been publishing columns semi-regularly in The Smoky Mountain News since mid-2018 after graduating from Appalachian State University, is related to me. She’s my daughter.

Hannah is smart, well-read and stays informed on happenings in our country and abroad. She can discuss literature or poetry, current events, music, movies, pop culture, geography, history, and is fluent in Spanish. She took her college classes seriously and managed to earn two undergraduate degrees. 

OK, call all me a proud father. Guilty as charged.

So, when we received Sam Edwards’ column two weeks ago that was a rebuttal to a column by my daughter, I was glad. Hannah had heaped criticism on the role the evangelical movement is playing on the current spate of over-the-top abortion laws (my opinion) being passed by state legislatures, along with the fact that most of these laws are being passed by law-making bodies composed of mostly old white guys (a club to which I belong).

Because here’s the thing. The conservative movement in this country spends a lot of its time bashing our public schools and public universities. They say public education needs competition to help them improve, so they send tax dollars to charter, private and religious schools in the name of choice. They deride universities for being too liberal and for graduating soft-in-the-head, politically correct youngsters.

But my daughter is anything but that. She went to the public schools right here in Western North Carolina, then on to a public university. And you know what? She’s a young woman who graduated with a pretty decent classical education. I’d like to think Lori, my wife, and I played a role in that. We had a couple old-school traditions in our household we seldom broke, and that was sit-down dinners together and no TV during the week. We talked about what was going in the world, in the country, in Western North Carolina. 

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Hannah wasn’t the most talkative at those dinners, but she soaked it in. She went to college craving a better understanding of the world we live in, and she learned a lot. Now, she debates her points with passion and clarity. And she can write. 

So I ask: isn’t that what those of us who care about the future of this country want? We shouldn’t care so much whether a 23-year-old woman agrees with us or not, but should celebrate that she’s informed and engaged about what’s going on. Her and those of her generation will, I think, lead this country to a great future.

As my good friend and Hannah’s old elementary school principal John Sanderson pointed out in a guest column in last week’s edition, Edwards’ column veered toward a personal attack on Hannah. As any father will attest, that will get one’s cackles up. But I also know if she’s going to put her opinions out there, she’s going to have to learn to be tough. The world, and one’s adversaries, are not always fair. That’s a lesson children and adults often have difficulty learning.

Most important in all this, in my opinion, is the immeasurably important need to get people — especially young adults — involved in the discussion of important issues. Hannah heaped strong criticism on a group, but she did not attack anyone personally. Her column has elicited quite a few responses, both from people who disagree with her and those who commended her for speaking up. Online, as always, the range of comments has ranged from downright nasty to inspired. That column has prompted many of us come to grips with how we stand on this important debate.

I’m elated by all the discussion. It’s what we need. It’s what happens when young people tell us what they think, and do so with passion. It hits people harder when it comes from young adults, much more so than when the argument comes from, well, an OWM like me.

Thanks Hannah, for sharing your opinion and putting it out there for all the world, and for taking the pushback that comes with doing that. 

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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