Schieffer: Living Longer, Ruder

When I was a boy, the turn of the century seemed a long way off. So far away I couldn't really imagine it. I can remember writing down 2000, which just didn't look right, and then subtracting 1937, the year I was born. And then looking at the answer and saying that's so far off and I'll be so old, I probably won't even know about it.

Well, it turns out the math was right, but lo and behold I am able to get around unassisted, testament to the most important thing this century brought, the remarkable advances in living conditions that led to longer life spans. We're living 30 years longer on average than the people at the beginning of this century.

We're living better, too, and not just materially. We have changed the relationship between blacks and whites and men and women, and that was for the better. Our parents beat the Nazis and we won the cold war and that's not bad for a century's work and it probably was the American century - certainly ours as much as anyone else's.

The one thing that does worry me is we seem to be much ruder to each other than we used to be, whether it's road rage or the new determination to never give an inch or our current insistence on always having the last word. We have too many times become too ill-mannered and impatient for our own well being. We ought to work on that.

But in the meantime, I'm just proud to be here.

©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved