How do you see this generational difference?

May 5, 2015

Greatest-generationTom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation is dying off, I’m sad to say. My parents were members and as I look at photographs of them pre- and post-World War II, I’m fascinated with the differences between their generation and ours. It led me to read Brokaw’s book, finally, and then to think long and hard about all that generation represented. And how different ours is. If you were all here, we’d be having a conversation about it.

So today, I’d like to do something a little different here.


A sense of personal responsibility and a commitment to honesty is characteristic of this generation.
Those were the values bred into the young men and women coming of age at the time the war broke
out….they were expected to be responsible for their behavior…honesty was assumed to be the rule,
not the exception. ~Tom Brokaw

Today, I’d like to ask for your thoughts about this quote and the differences between what we see now among young adults, and what was seen back in the 1940s and 1950s, if any.  Feel free to riff on your thoughts and feelings in the Comments, no matter where they take you.

28 comments on “How do you see this generational difference?
  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    I think it’s totally different. We are much more laid back than they were back then.

  2. There no longer is a commitment to honesty or a sense of personal responsibility being taught (except in rare cases) now it is all about learning the skill of spinning the truth for personal gain and creating excuses and blaming others for a failure to have personal responsibility.

  3. Sandy says:

    Wow, I’ll have to check out his book…seems interesting!

  4. I find it to be the truth on the whole for the older generation, that they were more committed to honesty and personal responsibility. But there’s the flip side of that generation, too, which spawned a fair share of horrible human beings doing horrible things to their children behind closed doors, then stepping out into the light, the public eye, and pretending to be something else.

    And, on the whole, I agree generations since are lacking in several areas… but they tend to be more transparent, I think. Or just not able to hide their transgressions as well.

  5. I think it’s a very thin line we walk. Although society as a whole seems to have been more moral and honorable, I also think that some minds and hearts were stifled by the expectation. Like with most things, when the pendulum swings to far to one side or the other, we’re not at our best. I think we need a little more of the way things were, but also some of the way things are.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I can honestly say that my children, young adults, fit Tom’s quote exactly.
    Many other young people do not. I’m not sure what that means. Perhaps because I was a kick-ass, take no hostages mother and it was my way or the highway. It may not be popular, but there it is. It was always done with love and support, but I held them accountable to standards and they rose to the occaison.

  7. Adela says:

    Several years ago, when my four kids were entering adulthood, I read a book about GenX. That book predicted GenXers as having much in common with The Greatest Generation. As the “kids” are now entering their 40s, I see the prediction was spot on. Gene are responsible on a global scale. They look for ways to better the community and the world at large. They teach their children to volunteer and work together for the good of the community. Thanks to so much connectedness, they think about their community beyond borders and beyond continents. Parents volunteer at food pantries and raise money for tornado victims. The schools too, teach global scholarship, tolerance, and responsibility.

    Where my own generation is known as the Me Generation, I see my children’s generation as the We Generation.

    The older I get, I understand the effort it took my parents to progress beyond their experience: The aftermath of WWI, The flu epidemic, The Great Depression, and WWII. I now understand why they shook their heads, incredulous about draft card and bra burning young people.

    I am learning a lot from the next generation, and from the one that my grandchildren are forming. Honesty might not be the rule, but transparency is, and you can only hide a lie so long in that climate.

    Great post, Carol. So thought-provoking.

  8. Amy says:

    Every generation has it’s greatness and it’s not-so-greatness woven into the fabric of that time. While the 40s and 50s are heralded for many reasons, the truth is the only people who truly benefited from this period of history were white, middle class males. I think if you were to ask women (not all of course), people of color, gays, poor people etc., they probably wouldn’t paint such a rosy picture of things — hell if I had been born in the 50s I would have been hog-tied and dragged behind someone’s car for either being a dyke or a ni**er lover. If people during those eras were so committed to honesty and personal responsibility, where was that being translated into society as a whole? Sure, its great to take care of yourself, your own family and your neighbors, but what about responsibility to people who don’t look or think like you? I truly believe our current generation will be the generation that gets what it means to be responsible and committed to humanity as a whole, and act on that responsibility.

  9. Britney says:

    This is very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  10. penpen says:

    Values and attitudes seem to shift with time. Time adds a glaze of “the grass was greener then.” I look at our present times–at the nastiness of politicians, of their outright lies about issues–and I think, times were better in the past. But were they? I just read Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Bully Pulpit and Teddy Roosevelt certainly came to power when lies, avarice and greed were prevalent. During Franklin Roosevelt’s time, there were plenty of attempts to unseat him and his policies with Big Lies. Was the generation that fought World War II the greatest? They truly accepted responsibility. But we now know that a lot of what they went through in the war and the stresses they came home with were hidden or just not discussed. We’re more transparent now. Does that mean we’re not as stoic [in the best sense of that word] or responsible? It’s a tricky question. Maybe our grandchildren’s generation will look back at us and think we were so flexible, so transparent, so innovative. Who knows?

  11. T.O. Weller says:

    While some may idealize a particular time or place, others may not see it quite the same way.
    I’ve heard tales of dark and violent things going on behind the closed doors of the Greatest Generation in my family, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
    Memory is a funny thing; it can be pretty selective and subjective, depending on who is sharing it and how they choose to perceive their experience.
    One of my students is studying memoir right now, so we actually had this conversation today. Our lives, our personal history and the history of all mankind takes on the characteristics of story more than we like to think.

  12. That is a great quote. I especially love the part at the end…Honesty was assumed to be the rule, not the exception. If we had more honesty today I don’t think we would have as many issues.

  13. Hi Carol – quite thought provoking isn’t it. I’d like to think that it hasn’t died out with that generation. We value these qualities too and did our utmost to instill those same values in our children and so far they seem to be living them out. Hopefully honesty and responsibility will still be in our world for a while longer!

  14. J.Q. Rose says:

    Thought provoking post. Nostalgia often colors the past into a sweet simple rosy existence. The “good ole days” weren’t t really that great. The assassinations of JFK , Bobby, and MLK and the Vietnam war all affected my generation. But so did the Beatles and the Twist. Each generation has its highs and lows and different challenges to overcome. I remember my parents thinking we were “going to hell in a hand basket” and we worry about our kids and theirs. I have faith they’ll be just fine handling whatever they need to do, maybe different than we would though and that’s not all bad.

  15. Carolann says:

    Technology has dramatically changed our generation. I don’t even think you can benchmark the two because of it. Even folks like my hubby, who is 10 years older than me is changed by it. I don’t wish for the “good old days” though that’s for sure. I hope when I get to come back technology is physically integrated into the human form. I know that might sound nuts, but it’s I believe it’s the only way we, as humans, will be able to truly achieve cosmic consciousness.

  16. I think with the internet that people of all ages are lacking in being responsible. People can share the horrible things they want to say hidden behind a computer screen.

  17. History has so much to teach us. There is always a generation gap.. and technology plays a very important role in changing people.

  18. This generation is way too distracted – and it’s hard to blame them for that.

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