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How Generations Shaped Our World Today

There is nothing more natural than generational turnover. Every few decades, a new set of elected officials replaces the old ones, ushering in a different political climate and fresh ideas. Looking down on younger generations may be a human tendency, but it can have serious consequences.

The Greatest Generation

Before discovering previous generations, it’s essential to understand what is a generation and how it plays a vital role today. A generation is all individuals born and still alive at roughly the same time, taken collectively.  It can also be referred to as “the average period, commonly believed to be around 20-30 years, during which children are born and grow up, become adults, and start having children. Members of this generation, sometimes called the G.I. Generation, lived through the Great Depression and fought in World War II. They were born between 1901 and 1924. This generation is renowned for its patriotism, family values, and commitment to hard work. They are also known for their frugal lifestyles and desire to save money, which translates to a strong sense of personal responsibility.

Political leaders from this generation steered the United States through some tumultuous times, including the Joseph McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950s and the escalation of the Vietnam War under the presidencies of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. They are also credited with helping to ease the threat of nuclear disaster.

However, some members of this generation stood in the way of civil rights progress, most notably Strom Thurmond and George Wallace, both of the segregationist Dixiecrat Party. And a 2021 Virginia Tech project analyzing hundreds of thousands of surveys from WWII service members revealed overtly racist attitudes among members of this generation.

The Lost Generation

The Lost Generation includes those who reached adulthood during or immediately after World War I. Many of these people were impacted by this war in ways that forever changed their outlook. For example, Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises revolved around the footloose lifestyle of expatriates living in Europe following the end of World War I. Hemingway used this work to express his feelings that the old world had died and the values of the lost generation had died along with it. Hemingway quoted Ecclesiastes in his book to prove this point: “As one generation passeth away, another cometh; but the earth abideth forever.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)). This passage is a crucial symbol of the loss of the previous generation.

The Silent Generation

They were known as traditionalists; the members of the Silent Generation were born during a time of war and economic uncertainty. As such, their upbringing emphasized hard work and loyalty. This also shaped their values, which often translate into the workplace today. Silent Generation members are thrifty, perhaps as a result of experiencing scarcity from both war rationing and the Great Depression. Additionally, they were raised to think about long-term consequences as they watched their parents struggle with the aftermath of both disasters. Despite the challenges of their youth, this demographic group also helped to shape 20th-century culture with pioneering rock musicians, gonzo journalists, and groundbreaking political satirists. Silent Generation members were also the driving force behind the American civil rights movement, including leaders Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.

The Baby Boomers

People born between 1946 and 1964 are called Baby Boomers and have shaped the world in countless ways. They’re known for their competitive nature and belief that anyone can achieve anything they want to if they work hard enough. After World War II, the birth rate skyrocketed. Soldiers were ready to start families after holding off on marriage during the war, and the economy was booming with plenty of opportunities. Many could also buy homes through the G.I. Bill and provide for their families.

Generation X

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1980, experienced several significant societal changes as they grew up. Their birth years coincided with shifting societal values, including the rise of dual-income families and divorce and the emergence of cable news networks. This generation is often characterized as being resourceful and independent, traits partly stemming from their latchkey childhoods. They are also known for their cynicism, which may be attributed to the economic and societal turmoil they experienced growing up. Gen X also lived through the AIDS crisis and the end of the Cold War, a significant turning point in their lives. They are also known for their music and a desire to maintain a work-life balance, with Gen X spawning the eras of hip-hop, grunge, and R&B boy bands. Some members of Gen X are also well-known as business leaders, such as Jeff Bezos and Tiger Woods.

Millennials

Also known as Generation Y, Gen Yers, or Millennials, this group is now entering adulthood. They will profoundly impact society and influence the world’s future during their teens and twenties.

Most of this generation was between the ages of 5 and 20 when the terrorist attacks 9/11 occurred, making those events a significant event in their lives. They also grew up during the economic crisis of 2008, which has shaped their political views. They are more likely to have debt than previous generations and less likely to own homes. This may be because they delay marriage to save money and establish themselves in their careers. They are also more likely to live at home with their parents. Millennials influence today’s world by disrupting industries with innovative start-ups, such as Rent the Runway, Airbnb, and Lyft.

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