The Generation between the Baby Boom and The Greatest Generation
As I have observed over summer and into the fall the “Tea Parties”, Town Hall meeting and debates on health care and Medicare I began to notice that there appeared a large group of individuals that fit a specific demographic. My curiosity led me to look into who makes up this group and why their passion. What I have discovered is largely a generation that was born and grew up through the “Great Depression” and the “Great War”, came of age in the shadow of the “Greatest Generation” and was foreshadowed by the “Boomer Generation”.
Their values were forged in the stark reality of the greatest periods of sacrifice socially, economically and in human life this country had come to know. From their parents, whom they observed struggling through the depression, they learned the value of hard work and the suffering of deprivation. From their older brothers and sisters they learned the lessons of self-sacrifice as millions went to war and unwavering patriotism in a period of great struggle. Their first defining moment to prove themselves came through the struggle with “Communism” culminating in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Both ultimately ending in less than clear victory as defined by the war of the “Greatest Generation”. Shaken by the social upheaval of the 60’s with attacks on their values of patriotism, work ethic, morality, social class, and segregation.
The very values they learned growing up and embraced came under attack and were changed forever. Struggling to define themselves they sought leaders to return the country to its “foundational” values. But this was to be denied them as those from the “Greatest Generation” took the key leadership positions to be followed by those of the “Boomer Generation”. As the torch was passed from Bush senior to Clinton and from Clinton to Bush Jr. this generation was skipped. Then came their moment, a time to bring to leadership one of their own, John McCain. Someone who could lead the country back to those sacred lost values. A true hero of a lost war, descended from a lineage of hero’s. Someone who would return this country to the greatness it had lost. Yet, once again it was to be denied them.
Instead the torch was passed to the next generation – a post-baby boomer, a “Gen-Xer” - a man of color, Barrack Obama. It is this generation, now in their 70’s and early 80’s, appearing in the forefront of contentious Town Hall Meetings. They are angry and afraid. They value hard work, individualism, small government and private enterprise. Yet, they are the beneficiaries of some of the greatest social government programs this country has– Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They live in one world desiring another but with all of the benefits of the first. They are a product of all that they are. How they define themselves as seniors may well define their generation, will it be self-first or selfless.
Monte Fellingham is a retired US Military Officer and an Executive with a Research and Development firm in Austin, TX