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Dawson PPD General Manager Gwen Kautz

Gwen Kautz

Dawson PPD General Manager

In recent months, I have been at forums in which decarbonization goals are being bantered for Nebraska. I’ve been in the electric industry for over 40 years, so yes, I have an opinion.

In the two meetings I attended, my opinion was shared by a majority of those present. It did not detour a few 20-somethings from getting up and sharing their perspective. One had amazing questions for our host, one had trouble finding the right words but was unwavering, one was emotional – which also conveyed his message, and one ardently read from her phone. As I sat there and actively listened, it wasn’t their words that caught my attention…it was their passion.

I was young once and I remember the fire I had for certain topics. Real life has a way of tempering that fire, so it doesn’t burn out of control.

These young people have the fire, but not the experience. Time will iron all of that out. I may have used the word ‘misguided’ in the past to describe them, but that isn’t accurate. They simply lack real-world experience.

As parents, our job when raising our children was to keep them safe, guide and nurture them, and prepare them for reality. How is that different for employers and the younger generation that oppose our views? You must guide gently and ably walk a fine line between encouraging them and dashing their dreams. Your job should be to quench and not squelch.

It dawned on me how ‘opposing view’ is very similar to the game of tug-o-war. In this case their passion was pulling against my experience. Today my experience outweighs their passion – but it won’t be that way forever. Think about this: while we are holding their future in our hands, in a few short years they will control our future. If we shake our heads at them for not understanding, we are losing an opportunity.

We need to find the intersection between passion and experience.

Their classroom is so different than my office – but they don’t know that, yet. I invited these young people to visit my world and in exchange I would strongly look at their point of view so we can find that intersection together.

We have an opportunity to shepherd these different viewpoints, but we must make it safe. If we force our opinion on them, their defensive posture will grow stronger much like the rebellion we saw in our own teens. It took courage for these young people to get up in front of an audience that had, for the most part, opposing views. To the young lady who read from her phone: let me teach you how to speak passionately from your heart and not from your phone. When I hear your heart, such as the young man who got emotional, I know you’re serious. Let me teach you not to rely on one source, to remain objective and how to stand your ground respectfully. Respect someone’s experience so we don’t close doors on each other.

Show grace to anyone whose view is different than yours. It’s just that– different–which doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. Find ways to get your message across that is inclusive rather than threatening.

To these young, passionate people, I would say: you will get your turn, but right now it’s mine. Be patient. Take notes and enjoy the ride so when you take the wheel, you drive with confidence and experience. Stand tall and get ready.

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