By Daniel Rothberg
It’s the ultimate coming of age tale. Four soon-to-be teens in the late ’50s embark on an adventure to find a boy’s dead body. The movie “Stand by Me,” which steals its name from one of my favorite songs and was adapted from one of my favorite short stories, follows the band of adolescents as they learn the value of trust, loyalty and friendship.
Perhaps the film strikes me because my life is so far removed from the experience of the four protagonists. And not just in the transparent fact that I live in a sprawling city rather than in a rural Oregon town.
The story is removed in the sense that it captures childhood in a way that is so different from my own childhood experience and that of my generation. Despite setting out to be a story about growing up, a fall from innocence, the film captures an innocence that I was told by a different generation I would remember fondly but honestly don’t remember at all.
While it may be a function of my own life experience, I think it is also indicative of a transformed world. Growing up in the age of Osama changes everything. By the time I was turning 10, it had been two years since the looming towers had fell and months since the world awoke to “shock and awe.”
The unconditional trust that bound the four together on the silver screen had become extinct, slowly usurped by uncertainty and tension. What could you trust? Surely, not the metal briefcase resting on the wall of a movie theater. Surely, not the man pacing in the park near my house on his cell phone. We all became Jack Bauer.
But then I came to Harvard-Westlake and it was morning again in America…sort of. Harvard-Westlake is a school grounded in a strong belief in trust.
Sure, Harvard-Westlake comes with its drawbacks. There are days when the pressure mounts, the competition turns divisive and my experience turns slightly sour. And sure, this trust is broken from time to time in the form of petty thefts and honor code violations. Overall, though, the system works.
Where else can you leave your backpack in the quad with the comforting knowledge that nothing will be stolen?
In a post 9-11 world, where we are accustomed to questioning everyone’s intentions, there is something uniquely special about a place so bound together by such a trust. It is a testament to the people here that this degree of faith in others can be maintained.
And so I guess, in the end, some things never do change. In the final lines of the 1986 film, a now matured adventurer types into his computer: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was 12. Jesus, does anyone?”