The Greatest Generation


Many recall Tom Brokaw as a news anchor at NBC.

He’s also the author of several books, including The Greatest Generation. Brokaw was among the first to use ‘greatest generation’ to frame Americans who were born in tough times, survived The Great Depression (not to be confused with The Great Recession), got tougher during a World War, returned home, started families, and above all, worked hard to keep America great, long before a similar phrase gained popularity.

The Internet says members of The Greatest Generation were born between 1910 and 1924, making the youngest around 95 years old and the oldest 109. Alas, there are fewer and fewer. For the record, a tough-as-nails WW II veteran rests in peace in a cemetery in southern Minnesota. A certain economic development official in the St. Croix Valley has a connection to him.

A turning point in world history is celebrated each June 6th. It’s called D-Day. Allied Forces converged on the beaches of Normandy France to beat back the German military. This June 6th marks the 75th anniversary of a truly historic event.

On that note, here are a few quotes from Brokaw’s Greatest Generation:

“There has never been a military operation remotely approaching the scale and the complexity of D-Day. It involved 176,000 troops, more than 12,000 airplanes, almost 10,000 ships, boats, landing craft, frigates, sloops, and other special combat vessels–all involved in a surprise attack on the heavily fortified north coast of France, to secure a beachhead in the heart of enemy-held territory so that the march to Germany and victory could begin. It was daring, risky, confusing, bloody, and ultimately glorious.”

“When the war ended, more than twelve million men and women put their uniforms aside and returned to civilian life. They went back to work at their old jobs or started small businesses; they became big-city cops and firemen; they finished their degrees or enrolled in college for the first time; they became schoolteachers.”

“They married in record numbers and gave birth to another distinctive generation, the Baby Boomers. They stayed true to their values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith.”

The old guy from southern Minnesota embodied Brokaw’s description. He returned home from service a partially disabled vet, started a family, had a rural mail delivery route (more of Uncle Sam), pounded a fair share of nails as a carpenter, marched in countless parades, and was active in his community.

Once in a while you’ll read about someone in their 90s, male and female, still working. They love work, but there’s less and less of them, too. Wagering a cup of coffee, a sure bet says most employers would hire a member of The Greatest Generation in a heartbeat. Young workers could learn many lessons, starting with work ethic, continuing with loyalty, and ending in pride.

Here’s to The Greatest Generation.