I have had a growing thought that the generation of our grandfathers, what Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation,” really had it together in so many ways. They have so many admirable traits and characteristics, some of which I list below. This book starts with an overview of the generation — how most were young children during the depression, fought in World War II, and then came home to very successful careers, lives, and marriages, how they built a tremendous society and economic powerhouse, etc. It then has a series of short essays about particular people from that generation, some you have never heard of, and some famous.
Some words and phrases that describe the people of “The Greatest Generation:”
- personal responsibility (one we truly lack today)
- strong worth ethic
- self sufficient/reliant
- family values
- commitment to marriage (NOT “let’s see how this works out”)
- sense of duty to country/patriotism
- “life is precious”
- delayed gratification rather than a need to “have everything now”
- strong sense of gratitude (my favorite!)
- pride in what they accomplished, but with quiet humility
- “Those of us who lived have to represent those of us who did not.”
Their thoughts on today’s generation(s):
- Today’s generation –> We don’t appreciate things because we don’t have to work for them.
- Baby boomers –> came of age when excess, not deprivation, was the rule
- Too many people want others to take care of their kids
Of course not everything was good, and one regret that many had was that they spent too much time at work and not enough time with family.
A very good read in my opinion, and I hope that somehow our generation (and the one that is following) could pull together and be as strong as the Greatest Generation was, if we had to be. I sometimes regret that I have never had to be truly tested, but maybe that is why I enjoy “extreme” sports like adventure racing, orienteering, mountaineering, etc., and why I enjoy digging into the classics — even those that are a struggle to read and understand.
Born in 1926, growing up during the Depression, and serving in WWII and Korea, my father was certainly a part of “The Greatest Generation.” He died when I was a 12, so my experience of him was as the father of a young child. I’ve been thinking for years that I should read Brokaw’s book but I’ve just not gotten around to it yet.
With that said, it seems the world that we’ve inherited is vastly different from the one they came back to after the war. During my adult working life I’ve weathered the dot-com crash, 9-11, significant recessions, unacceptable health care costs, and the list goes on.
I wonder how they would respond? Thoughts?
I hit the first years or the Y generation. I think the “GI Generation” would look at today and say “damn its nbot any better those kids have a lot of work.” Boomers will forever look at themselves with pitty and “Woe as me attitudes.” Settle down anbd shut up so the rest of us can get to work; it’s the 4 generation cycle my friend we are the new heros so let us do our thing.
I think, and Brokaw would probably agree, that the early trials, namely the Great Depression and WWII, is what shaped them the most and enabled them to thrive in the post war era.
Granted, there was certainly room for growth as an economic and social powerhouse due to the losses the war caused. But even then there were still major obstacles like the Korea war.
I would say that overall the problems we have faced are comparatively minor. While 9/11 was devastating, the scale was so small when compared to WWII. And while our current economic crisis is major, it is also small compared to the Great Depression.
I had hoped that our American society would stand together after 9/11 as we did during WWII, and for a short time, we did. But it seems that cohesiveness has dissipated. Yet that glimmer gives me some hope that we could stand up and “be great” if called on.
However, I worry that we currently lack too many of the attributes of the Greatest Generation that I listed, and that at some point we will reach a point where we could not stand strong in a time of need.