Boomers, Prophets and Generational Markers

17 Aug

I’m reviewing the four extant generations, one at a time. Here’s some insight on Boomers, now and throughout history. Text from The Fourth Turning, by intellectual powerhouses William Strauss and Neil Howe. My lightly edited version is here:

We remember Prophets (today’s Boomers) best for their coming-of-age passion (the excited pitch of Jonathan Edwards, William Lloyd Garrison, William Jennings Bryan) and for their principled elder stewardship (the sober pitch of Samuel Langdon at Bunker Hill, President Lincoln at Gettysburg, or FDR with his “fireside chats”). Prophets are today’s Boomers, born 1943-1960, and a generation also known as “idealist generation.” Increasingly indulged as children, they become increasingly protective as parents. Their principal endowments are in the domain of vision, values, and religion.

Their best-known leaders include: John Winthrop and William Berkeley; Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin; James Polk and Abraham Lincoln; and Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt. These have been principled moralists, summoners of human sacrifice, wagers of righteous wars. Early in life, none saw combat in uniform; late in life, most came to be revered more for their inspiring words than for their grand deeds.

A lifecycle outline:

  • In childhood, they are nurtured with increasing indulgence by optimistic adults in a secure environment.
  • As self-absorbed young adults, they challenge the moral failure of elder-built institutions, sparking a society-wide spiritual awakening.
  • As judgmental midlifers, they preach a downbeat, values-fixated ethic of moral conviction.
  • As visionary elders, they push to resolve ever-deepening moral choices, setting the stage for the secular goals of the young.
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