Without Gen X there is no Millennial

generation-xWhile the Millennials are the darlings of the media (think Taylor Swift), Generation X (35-55 years old) are the parents of school aged children, and are/will be the leaders in government, industry and education for the next couple of decades. Hmmm

I am a proud 48 year old member of Generation X.  I grew up in a rapidly changing medical, financial, social, and political climate.  Between 1967 (when I was born) and 1985 (when I turned 18) a lot was happening in the world:

  • Flower Power is at its peak in California 1967
  • Civil Rights Champion Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated 1968
  • Man walked on the Moon 1969
  • Sitting US President, Richard Nixon, resigned amid the Watergate scandal 1974
  • Punk Music Exploded onto the scene 1976
  • Ronald Reagan elected US President, his inauguration ushered in an ultra conservative era 1980/1981
  • AIDS Epidemic began 1981 (Rock Hudson becomes most “famous” face to die of AIDS 1985)

In the preface to Generation X Goes Global: Mapping a Youth Culture in Motion, a collection of global essays, Professor Christine Henseler summarized Gen X as “a generation whose worldview is based on change, on the need to combat corruption, dictatorships, abuse, AIDS, a generation in search of human dignity and individual freedom, the need for stability, love, tolerance, and human rights for all.”

Born between 1961 and 1981, the roughly 84 million members of Generation X have been  described in the media as

  • Latchkey Kids: Kids who came home to empty houses after school because their parents were at work or often away – I say this encouraged a strong sense of independence, inventiveness and entrepreneurialism.
  • The MTV Generation: Music Videos, Grunge, Alternative Rock, and Hip Hop are some of their contributions.
  • Heterogeneous: Embraced acceptance of social diversity: race, class, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, gender identity, and sexual orientation.
  • Revolutionists: Instead of replacing individual leaders as their parents did via the vote, Gen X employed social, economic and consumer pressure to enact systemic and institutional changes.
  • Highly Educated: According to a 2009 US Census Bureau report, Gen Xers have achieved higher levels of academic achievement than any generation before them.
  • First Generation in the Internet Age: 97% use the Internet, 75% use Online Banking, 62% use Social Media.

On the social front, members of Generation X:

  • Witnessed and learned resilience from the economic struggles their parents faced in the 1970’s (End of Vietnam War; Recession; Worldwide Oil Shortage; High Unemployment; High Inflation)
  • More likely to be workers – 86% of adults work 40 hours or more weekly
  • More likely to be satisfied with their lives – giving an average score of 7 out of 10
  • Life revolves around the family – 2/3 Married and 71% have children – 80% of parents expect their children to attend 4 year college
  • Involved in their communities – Schools (PTA), Religious Organizations, and Local Sports Clubs

While my parents were very definitely of the Baby Boomer Era (those born post WWII but before 1964) they were different than many of my friends’ parents.  Mine were high school students in the mid 1960’s, my dad served 4 years “in-country” during the Vietnam War, neither  graduated from college, yet we lived a pretty upper-middle class lifestyle despite the challenges they faced raising a young family in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  My parents’ attitudes more closely aligned with Generation X in many ways.  They were quite involved in our lives, they coached our teams, took part in school functions, my father had his own business and they encouraged our independence and resourcefulness, not via the latchkey, but rather via a focus on education and participation in this thing we call life.

The media wants tag Millennials (A.K.A. Gen Y/ those born mid 80’s to mid 2000’s) as “World Changers.” They may very well end up being great, but I believe that it is Generation X that has truly brought meaningful change to the world.  Without the fearlessness with which my generation attacked life, challenging old ways of doing things and striving for bigger, better and more of all things from science and technology to arts and entertainment, the Millennial Generation would have no spring board from which to jump into improving the future.

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