Our Silent Elders …

15 Aug

This blog post is one segment of a quick review of the four primary generations alive today. Text by William Strauss and Neil Howe. Edited by me to lighten the archetypal language. Here it is:

We remember Artists (the current Silent Gen elders, born 1924 – 1942) best for their quiet years of rising adulthood (the log-cabin settlers of 1800, the plains farmers of 1880, the new suburbanites of 1960) and during their midlife years of flexible, consensus-building leadership (the “Compromises” of the Whig era, the “good government” reforms of the Progressive era, the budget and peace processes of the current era). Overprotected as children, they become under-protective parents. Their principal endowment activities are in the domain of pluralism, expertise, and due process.

Their best-known leaders include: William Shirley and Cadwallader Colden; John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson; Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson; Walter Mondale, and Colin Powell. These have been sensitive and complex social technicians, advocates of fair play and the politics of inclusion. With the single exception of Andrew Jackson, they rank as the most expert and credentialed of American political leaders.

A lifecycle outline:

  • In childhood, they are overprotected at a time of political convulsion and adult self-sacrifice.
  • As conformist young adults, they become sensitive helpmates, lending their expertise and cooperation to an era of growing social calm.
  • As indecisive midlifers, they apply expertise and process to improve society while calming the passions of the young.
  • As empathic elders, they quicken the pace of social change, shunning the old order in favor of complexity and sensitivity.
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