Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Creating a Legacy


  1. money or property left to someone by a will; bequest
  2. anything handed down from, or as from, an ancestor or predecessor
  3. a student applying or admitted to a college or university who is a relative of an alumnus

I was surprised when I consistently found just these definitions of the word online.  Note that there is no connotation of good, which I’ve always thought was a part of the word in the context of reputation and none of the definitions address reputation.  Money or property from the folks can be good or bad depending on how you use it, as can anything else you get from someone else.  Legacy students actually have a negative connotation – Junior would have no chance of getting into Yale without his parental connection.

I’ve been hearing the word legacy a lot.  Ted Stevens and Dan Rostenkowski appear to have left mixed legacies.  Both brought home the bacon to their states, keeping a little bit for themselves.

The word appeared in news stories about Warren Buffett and Bill Gates getting promises from their fellow billionaires to give half their money away.

You always see the word in connection with the famous who are retiring, dying or just departed.

For most of us, our legacy will be summed up in our eulogies.  Anyone planning your life based on the prospect of getting a socko eulogy?

Though I’m not a politician, rich or famous, I wonder if this legacy thing is a media creation.  Does the upper class really spend any time thinking about legacy?  Estate planning, sure.  But, did George W. Bush agonize about how he will be remembered while he was in office?  Did Fellini make his films with a view as to how he wanted them to be thought of?

I think “legacy” is for the most part an overlay given by those remaining.  I think achievers, of good or bad, spend their time achieving.  Those that don’t achieve, spend their time coping.  Maybe nearing the end they reminisce and are happy or rueful about the outcome of their lives.  And, maybe the outcome would be a little better overall if we spent a little more time planning it.

1 comment:

The Curmudgeon said...

I can't imagine that W didn't think about how he'd be remembered. I think they all do.

A person who lives a life in the public eye may have hopes of heaven -- but can't help but realize that his or her legacy will consist, in large part, of how they are remembered.

Those of us who will not be remembered except by our own immediate family don't have these same problems -- but we still try and encourage happy memories in those who should remember us when possible, do we not?