I was born in 1946, a year after the end of WWII. I'm a "boomer," which often has derogatory connotations. I wear the label proudly, and I'd like to tell you why.
My parents were part of the "greatest generation." During WWII, my father served in the army; my mother worked in an appliance factory re-tooled to manufacture items needed for the war effort (#RosieTheRiveter). My brother and I grew up in a Philadelphia housing project – products of an excellent public-school education. I could go on about how proud I am of my little brother but suffice it to say that while raising an incredible family and earning a Ph.D., he taught in public and private schools for 50 years. He is married to a phenomenal woman who is an awesome wife and mother, an accomplished musician, and a retired public-school teacher (#BoomersPayingItForward).
That brings me to my original point. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, there was a lot of chatter about age and the need for new, younger faces in our country's highest government offices. I agree with a word of caution.
#LexingtonConcord #GettysburgAppomattox #VerdunVersailles #SenecaFalls #PearlHarborNormandy #PorkChopHill #SelmaMontgomery #HamburgerHill #Stonewall #2020&Beyond
American Revolution, Civil War, WWI, Women’s Suffrage, WWII, Korea, Civil Rights, Vietnam, LGBTQ Rights, and the future we hope to create for our children and grandchildren post-2020.
New generations join us in fighting big battles – climate crisis, gun violence, criminal justice, equal rights, fair elections, voting rights, and many more. They understand and embrace new ideas and new technology. I am in awe of their activism beginning in high school or even earlier. My children and grandchildren are always available to help me find a "lost" file, correctly use an app, find the football game using the Sunday Ticket, school me on the latest technical and cultural jargon, etc. I readily admit my many deficiencies, especially those where their capabilities and perspectives shine. I learn from them every day and am better able to adapt to an ever-changing world because of them. They are my heart and my lifeline to all things new and shiny.
Previous generations have brought us to this moment in history that challenges all they fought and perhaps died for. That's what the hashtags mean to me: Sacrifices made by Americans across generations.
Even as we move forward, my generation – Boomers – remember our brief moments in history. We are the "hippie" generation that came to be known for "sex, drugs, rock & roll," which was borne out by Woodstock. We were praised and criticized for our Vietnam War protests. It was a shameful time for our country when brave service members were blamed and vilified for Vietnam's horrors.
Burning draft cards and bras; women's rights; the Beatles and Elvis; Black Power; raised fists in protest of ongoing racial injustice. It was a time to question everything. Nothing was out of bounds – religion, politics, race – all things we had accepted without question. We, too, fought big battles, some of which are still being waged today. We helped shine a light on poverty and ignorance and elected officials who dared fight for social and political change.
My caution to the young, capable, strong, intelligent, diverse new generations is not to marginalize any group due to race, religion, gender, gender identification, sexual orientation – or age. You are already fighting critical battles. Don't run the risk of alienating the very people who need to learn from you. Disagree with us? Absolutely. Challenge us? Without a doubt. Even argue with us; we can take it. Just remember, we need you.
Don't assume our age signals incompetence or apathy. Don't relegate us to disengaged observers. We have history and experience to share. We have stories to tell and perspectives only long lives can make relevant.
Share your journey with us. We may surprise you.
Photo Source: Marvin Meyer on Unsplash