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According to some featured graduation speakers as reported by the Wall Street journal (& commented on by Rita Robinson of the Seattle Press -reprinted here), we most assuredly do:
When I was reading The Boomer Blog, I found an article in The Wall Street Journal called “Boomers to This Year’s Grads: We Are Really, Really Sorry.”
These are among the quotes in the article:
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, 60 years old, told the graduating class of Butler University last month that boomers have been ‘self-absorbed, self-indulgent and all too often just plain selfish.’
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, 55, told Grinnell College graduates in Iowa that his was ‘the grasshopper generation, eating through just about everything like hungry locusts.’
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, at 44 barely a boomer himself, told seniors at Colorado College that the national creed of one generation standing on the shoulders of the next was at risk ‘because our generation has not been faithful enough to our grandparents’ example.’
The article said the collective advice of the speakers for the class of 2009: Don’t be like us.
What do you think of these apologies?”
I’m glad to hear ’em – and my hope is we’ve just begun, at last, to recognize the damage we’ve done as a generation over the last 25 years, when we started with such promise. Remember when we fought against “the man” and all his excesses, his polluting ways, his corporate greed, and his disdain for anything but his own bottom line? So we changed the world for the better w/civil rights, environmental controls, and the uncovering of corporate shenanigans? We were good! Then we went bad….
Robin goes on to say that Gen Y/X experience their share of excesses, so it’s not just us…but gee, who raised them? She states that there were/are those of our parents’ generation who have as well lived lives of excess….in contrast to ours, they were in the minority – and it was not a generational past-time to live beyond their means & consider themselves worthy only if they had more things, as it was ours.
Finally she says: “I know boomers who are environmentalists and live a simple lifestyle. Not all boomers practiced instant gratification.” Yep… all three of them.
Then, there’s this from Harry Dent of the Miami based HSDent research firm as reported in the Newark Star Ledger, about how Boomers are the prime cause of this recession (as he predicted would be the case back in the ’80’s) – but this time for the opposite reason of the apology:
“Q: You said years ago that the spending habits of the Baby Boomers will eventually cause the economy to crash. Why?
A: This Baby Boomer generation is massive — the largest we’ve seen in a couple hundred years, probably since the American Revolution. They’ve been entering the work force, getting married, raising families, buying houses and earning more money since the early ’80s.
…We said 20 years ago, “Hey, there will be an end to this.” They’ll peak in their spending cycle after they buy houses, raise their kids, get them into college and all that good stuff.
Now, they’re just doing predictable things as they age. In other words, they’ll become savers, not spenders. They don’t need a bigger house. They don’t need more cars. The kids are gone. That’s what happening. They’re going to spend less and the economy’s going to get slower and slower.”
To Mr. Dent I say…”yeah…right…apparently you’ve not been keeping up with your fellow Boomers spending habits…” We may down-size some things like our home space (although many are actually up-sizing as they “retire in place” and make room for children and/or parents to move in w/them), but we are not down-sizing our willingness to spend for things that keep us feeling good about ourselves. From ultra-expensive “cosmeceuticals” to high-end vacations, our penchant for instant gratification and determination to halt the aging process will well make up for any “savings” we embrace in other areas.
And please prove me wrong, my fellow Boomers, but once this econonic crisis passes, and our portfolios make a come-back, too many of us will go back to our old ways. We will be the first generation to leave less for our children (inheritance) than we spent on ourselves.
But all is not lost, says she who has so far filled this post with a quite curmudgeonly “bad Boomers!” diatribe.
I always have faith in my generation, it is faith in ourselves that I fear we lack. We still don’t recognize the enormous power (for good or ill) we wield (lost track of that once we moved from our youth to becoming “the man” in adulthood), and the immense changes for the better of which we are capable if we put our collective will to it.
If we make driving small, fuel efficient cars the thing to do, they will sell like pork-barrel projects in Washington! If we make it a priority to hold our legislators accountable for their behavior, we will have far better government leadership. As the current corporate leadership, if we move from an emphasis on gluttony to one of benevolent leadership (as we demanded of those in this same position in our youth), we will change the face of corporate America.
So, Boomers, as has been the case for the past 40 years, the proverbial ball is in our court. Will we use our collective might to fix what’s wrong today, and leave a legacy perhaps not equal to but near that of our parents’, or will be continue to ignore our power and by doing so remain destructive?
You tell me.
A while back, a lovely young lady (very young…college aged) wrote to our local newspaper begging for real leadership from the adults running her world. Here is my response…
Dear Ms. Scofield:
Since it is we Boomers who are the leaders right now, it is us who owe you the kind of thoughtful, quality leadership you so dearly want, and who have so disappointed you.
And ironically, you have asked of us the kind of leadership we asked of our leaders in our day. It is our generation that began the environmental movement – “sitting-in” and demonstrating our little hearts out against “the man” and the status quo he represented (corporate greed, pollution, segregation, few rights for women – sound familiar?) when we were your age!
Except that once we became “the man” we happily backtracked on all that we believed as youth: we have been the main polluters with our gas guzzling cars and 3 homes; we are the CEO’s of the companies that ran the economy into the earth’s core and made decisions based on fattening our wallets vs. caring for our customers/planet; we abandoned the equal rights bill so women still make significantly less than men for the same job; we are many of the legislators unproductively growling dogma along strict party lines or to ensure our re-election rather than doing what’s best for the state/country and our legacy. We are doing exactly what our leaders were doing that we so abhorred.
I am so very proud of you. And I am so very disappointed by the failings of my generation after such a slam-bang start.
So you and your peers keep up the pressure – and add to it that no one knows better than Boomers what is needed to take care of our state and the world. Remind us of that for which we once fought. And don’t stop until we blush and capitulate.
It’s the least we can do after all these decades of betrayal to our roots.