THE BABY BOOM GENERATION LEGACY
Bill Keller, now an OpEd columnist for The New York Times, started with his column on the entitlement behavior of Boomers what led to a dialogue of letters over a few weeks span between Keller, Leonard Steinhorn, author of the book “The Greater Generation: In Defense of the Baby Boom Legacy,” and then a slew of letters from readers at the invitation of the Times Opinion section editor.
My letter was not among the handful chosen for publication, and I am sharing it here. I chose not to strongly defend or criticize the Boomer generation but rather to make the point that the generations need dialogue to understand and appreciate each other better rather than whine and point fingers.
Most of Professor Steinhorn’s letter rings true to me. However I disagree about which generation gets tarred with the “entitled” label, which I think should be barred from our vocabulary in this context. In recent years, the GenY/Millennials have been frequently accused of a strong sense of entitlement. When the Gen Xers entered the workforce, they also were labeled with an entitled attitude. Then they became hard workers, like the Boomers did, and foist the entitled epithet on the Gen Ys. And as noted in both Bill Keller’s article and Steinhorn’s letter, the Boomers get it too. It becomes meaningless, and the stereotypers should be more specific in their criticisms.
The younger generations don’t have the perspective to appreciate the positive changes the Boomers accomplished (laid out in Steinhorn’s letter) and what our society and business world was like before. We have to teach that better so they understand and are aware of what they could stand to lose.
We need cross-generational conversation in the spirit I have been facilitating through social media (e.g., the Cross-Generational Conversation group on Linkedin) and in-person forums. The talk is notable for its civility and mutual learning and appreciation across the generations. We have more important things to do in our lives and the world than fueling phony wars among the generations.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot
New York, NY August 15, 2012
Let’s continue the discussion. Please share your comments.