I am a member of what has been called “The Greatest Generation”.
But this I believe: that name is wrong. Rather, I think we are the luckiest generation. We had the benefit — and I mean benefit — of spending our formative years in the great depression. That toughened us more than any subsequent American generation. It prepared us for the trials which history was about to throw at us. When we emerged into adulthood we were given a quest, a purpose: to slay modern dragons in the guise of Adolph Hitler and the perpetrators of the day of infamy at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. We had been well prepared for this trial; we were ready. We were able to rise to the occasion. We won.
But that was only the beginning of our luck. We survivors of WWII returned to a grateful nation that showered us with rewards. Via the GI Bill, millions of us, who otherwise would not have, attended college at government expense and we became the most educated generation in the history of the world. That splurge of education gave us the talents to be more creative and adventuresome. We seized upon the marvelous technical devices that our government had developed to aid the war effort and turned them into societal wealth. Radar became TV, etc., jet propulsion morphed into air travel and even space travel, big one-of-a-kind, room-filling computers became everyman’s laptop, etc. Even nuclear power enhanced our world, ‘though it did have a dark side (which, it must be admitted, is becoming darker).
While all of this was going on, our grateful nation showered more on us. With the help of government financing we, while still young, were able to own our own homes. This created not only economic boom times but it also abetted a boom in new family formations with a consequent baby boom. All of this emphatically ended the depression era in which we had come of age, and the economic boom seemed like it would last forever. And the visionary Marshall Plan began the resuscitation of war-torn Europe, turned on the world market and the boom became international. The “Fabulous Fifties” turned into the “Soaring Sixties”.
It must be admitted that the sixties fizzled with three assassinations and sometimes our children’s behavior astonished us and the weather occasionally got stormier. But by then we were surfing down the wave of our prior good fortune. And for us, the good fortune continued. Once again, our government advantaged us by helping us finance our early retirement by periodically enhancing our Social Security benefits. And as our bodies began to deteriorate, they sent us Medicare to ease our pain. Of course earlier generations had not had these buttresses, and it seems like future ones will not either – at least not to the same lush extent. Once again, we of the luckiest generation had been generously favored.
As we now shuffle towards our graves, we can look back with satisfaction.. Sure, there were some squalls, but for the most part it was a joyful and prosperous voyage. and we can be thankful that we cast off back there in the early years of the 20th Century..
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