Boomers' Children Are Born Leaders

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 13, 2008 | Go to article overview

Boomers' Children Are Born Leaders


Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Louise M. Bishop For The Register-Guard

In the Nov. 7 Register-Guard, New York Times columnist Gail Collins noted that the 2008 election ended the era of baby boomer presidents. The boomers - my generation - have held the presidency for 16 years. Bill Clinton was the first boomer president; George Bush, the last.

We've heard much about the boomers' numbers and enormous cultural presence. The eldest boomers, born in 1946, turned 62 this year to reach Social Security eligibility; the youngest, born in 1960, are approaching 50. As my 20-something children remind me, we boomers (I'm 54) have run this country's economy, society and culture in a flagrantly visible way for every decade of their conscious lives.

Surprisingly, despite our numbers and marketability, boomers had only 16 years, and only two faces, in the White House.

The boomers' parents? Well, that's another story.

In 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower (born in 1890), passed the presidency to another World War II veteran: John F. Kennedy. How long did Kennedy's generation of young World War II veterans - the Greatest Generation, in Tom Brokaw's term - hold onto the White House?

Thirty-two years.

That's right. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush. All World War II veterans, although Army reserve captain Reagan served by making war movies. The oldest? Lyndon Johnson, born in 1908 - nine years Kennedy's senior. The youngest? George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, both born in 1924. Sixteen years separate the oldest and the youngest of those seven - yes, seven - presidents. Fourteen years separate the oldest and youngest boomers.

Greatest Generation's presidential run: more than three decades. Baby boomers': half that.

Why only two boomer presidents?

Maybe because leadership, unlike narcissism, doesn't rank high on the boomer hit parade.

The Greatest Generation gave their boomer children extraordinary economic mobility. We boomers always seemed able to find jobs and get ahead - at least, white boomers could do so. Johnson's Great Society tried to lift everyone out of poverty, but melted in the face of Vietnam, not to mention entrenched racism and sexism.

The hit TV series "Mad Men" dramatizes the economic and material successes of white middle-class 1950s moms and dads. But the series has just begun to explore the men and women who, ever so tentatively in the early 1960s, began to turn away from the strait-jacketed gendered parenting roles that had been foisted on them. …

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