This year, the last of the Boomers will turn fifty. The first Boomers will turn sixty-eight. That’s over 70 million people in the United States. Various sociologists and marketers have tried to subdivide this huge mass of humanity into more manageable segments, using 1956 as a dividing line between early and late boomers, but I think that’s still too broad a brush.
On Sunday Morning, P.J. O’Rourke described Boomers as self-absorbed and happy-go-lucky. He points out that the first segment of this enormous group was born into post-war prosperity and two-parent families. Life was good. Optimism was natural. He divides Boomers into four groups: seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshman and describes the segments in The Wall Street Journal and in an appearance on Sunday Morning.
Seniors were born in the late 40’s, he says. I suspect that a few of us born a year or so earlier feel a closer bond to this group than their own cohort. O’Rourke characterizes this group as pulled between the calm of the previous cohort and their own need for exploration and experimentation. He sees Hillary Clinton and Cheech Marin as representing the diversity of this group. That says it all!
By the early 50’s, when the Juniors came along, experimentation was all. Sex, drugs and rock and roll turned into sex, drugs and protests until many in this group discovered experimenting with computers. Sophomores, born in the late 50’s, added a more traditional work ethic to the mix. Freshman, according to O’Rourke, were born into a different universe. Anti-war protests and feminism were things to read about.
As I look at this and ponder the diversity of voices that, by virtue of numbers if nothing else, represent us in the world, I wonder that we ever get anything done. One thing all these groups have in common is that they were all taught to speak up. As what I like to call a cusp-boomer (end-of but not post-war), I’m supposed to be part of the Silent Generation. “Children should be seen and not heard” battled with “express yourself.” Many of us were not so silent – Judith Jamison, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, Nora Ephron, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Linda Ellerbee, to name a few.
I no longer wonder why Congress is in perpetual gridlock. In fact, I’m amazed any group this diverse ever gets anything done. Still, there’s hope. O”Rourke says:
There is no escape from happiness, attention, affection, freedom, irresponsibility, money, peace, opportunity and finding out that everything you were ever told is wrong.
Behold the baby boom, ye mighty, and despair.
I’ve just added The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way…And It Wasn’t My Fault…And I’ll Never Do It Again to my Kindle. We’ll see where it goes from here. Brad, how will you and your 70 million best buds shape the future?