A generation’s heroes

Posted on November 22, 2007
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          Being young in 1960 was frightening, exciting and tumultuous.

          Among the exciting things happening was the election of a young war hero US president with a beautiful wife, great sense of humour and young children.

          John Fitzgerald Kennedy inspired not just young Americans but young people all over the world. He sailed. Family get togethers involved touch football. He was funny, sophisticated and had a radiant smile.

          He really did seem to signify a changing of the guard from the old, very serious leaders who had endured and won World War II with all its hardship and sacrifice.

          His inauguration address was poetic.

          “Let the word go forth,

          from this time and place,

          that the torch has been passed

          to a new generation of Americans.”

          The youth of the world responded to his “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

          And then, 34 years ago today, Lee Harvey Oswald shot him in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

          People hear a lot about boomer  privilege  as the pampered, post-war, majority.

          People don’t hear a lot about the anguish and disillusionment that went with it.

          For Americans, there was Vietnam. Many boomers fought and died there. Many others protested the war. That drove a wedge between the members of the generation that does not totally heal. Could that be the seed of the tragic polarization that exists between liberals and conservatives in the US today?

          Young military reservists shot young university students dead at Kent State.

          Innocence and optimism died with the assassinations of JFK, RFK, Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the charismatic black power leader. All of the boomers’ most exciting leaders were murdered.

          Life usually seems to dull the bright-eyed optimism and idealism of youth. The blessed, pampered baby boomers had their share of loss and disillusionment.

          On this anniversary of JFK’s assassination, let us wonder what long term effect his, and the subsequent, assassinations had on the current state of the world.

          Might US foreign policy and the state of the world be different and better?

          I believe it would be. I believe the leaders of that generation were, and are, underrated. JFK was the underdog for the nomination and the election. RFK was proving the cynics wrong on the day he died. Dr. King steadily gained momentum to the moment of his death.  Malcolm X’s idea of black power leading to a proportionate share of political, financial and social respect still needs a champion.

          They all made mistakes but they learned and grew.

          This is, indeed, a sad day.



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