I was born in 1946, making me not only incontrovertibly old, but even one of the oldest baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964). I have been self-conscious of being a part of this group of “boomers” for about as long as I can remember, although the term itself can be traced to a January 1963 (when i was 16 years old) article in the Newport News Virginia Daily Press that warned of a tidal wave of college enrollment coming as the “Baby Boomers” were growing up. That same year, the Oxford English Dictionary quoted the Salt Lake [Utah] Tribune as saying “Statistics show that…long hours of television viewing put an extra strain on chairs, causing upholstered seating pieces to wear out three to four times faster than in the days before television and the baby boomers [the first coach potatoes?].”
So we baby boomers were, from the onset, associated with our large numbers–more numerous than any generation before us, and larger than the subsequent generation of Gen Xers. Although Millenials, born between …caught up with us in 2019 as we began to die out, we boomers had spent our entire adult lives thinking of ourselves as America’s center of gravity, the country’s influencers.
It turns out, despite our self-identification as baby boomers, we didn’t have that much in common. Consider the simple fact that joining me in celebrating our 74th birthdays in 2020 are three American Presidents of considerably disparate ideologies and temperment–William Jefferson Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald J. Trump. Throw in the much younger baby boomer, Barack Obama (born in 1963 and one of the youngest baby boomers), and you’d be hard-pressed to suggest that baby boomers were of a single stripe. Gallup reported in 2014 that boomers were quite split between conservatives (44%) and liberals (21%). While the conservative preference among my peers has grown as we’ve aged, it certainly belies any belief on my part that the baby boomers were a bunch of liberal, soft on crime, permissive environmentalists.
Nevertheless, I have embarked on this project, www.boomerout.com, to examine as many aspects of the world we grew up in and of the world we are preparing to leave behind as I (or you, if you’ll make suggestions) can think of. I do this not because I think all boomers responded similarly to the historical circumstances that dominated our lives, nor because we had a singular set of impacts on the world around us. I’m not a sociologist or a social psychologist and can’t pretend to trace a clear line from a person’s environment to her actions, nor the clear impacts of his actions on the resultant environment. I simply want to know and reveal more about the world of the 1960’s, 70’s that shaped us, albeit in different ways; and about the world of 2020 and beyond that we will soon be leaving behind.
So who am I to author this tiny little corner of the digital universe we all inhabit? I am white, born to middle class parents in an affluent New Jersey suburb of New York City. I benefitted from a good public school education, culminating with my final two yearsof high school at the American School in Japan. I graduated with a BA from Yale University (majoring in Economics), earned an MA from The George Washington University in Public and International Affairs, and a PhD from the Unversity of Virginia in Government and Foreign Affairs.
Along the way, I was an economist at the World Bank in Washington, DC, a college professor in Atlanta, and a PR executive at CNN (Atlanta) and RealNetworks (Seattle). I eased my way towards retirement by teaching part-time at Evergreen State College and Cornish College of the Arts in Washington State. I even spent some enjoyable time peddling espresso machines at Sur La Table in California. Now I am officially retired!
Ideology? Liberal, verging on democratic socialism. Just so you know.
I intend here to toss questions about the influences we boomers felt as we grew up, entered adulthood, and in some cases, obtained leadership ranks in the world of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. I also expect to raise questions about the many and varied impacts we may have had on that world.
Along the way I also expect to explore things I am experiencing as I continue to march irrevocably towards old, old age and eventual death. These explorations may help me the acceptance of my own mortality. I also hope to receive some observations (even full-fledged submissions for inclusion in this blog) from others. In the case of our impending deaths, unlike our disparate life arcs up to now, we’re all in this final chapter together. In fact, over 25% of us (over 20 million) have already died in the US (nearly 5,000 a day).
So, here we go.