Sociologists tell us that there are six living generations in America.
Beginning with the oldest, they grew up during the Depression of the 1930s and endured the calamity of World War II.
In the face of a fast-changing world, high moral values and near-absolute standards of right and wrong.
A generation that remembers life without airplanes, radio, or T.V.
The journalist Tom Brokaw called them “The Greatest Generation.”
Then there is my generation. Relatively small in numbers, we were born during World War II and known as “War Babies.” In grade school, most trouble was in passing notes and chewing gum. We routinely had 50 kids in class and that was normal. A relatively quiet generation of avid readers, somewhat cautious and often called “The Silent Generation.”
After World War II, literally millions of men returned from overseas and nine-months later, the Baby Boomers. The party-hardy “me” generation. An era of questioning authority. The first T.V. generation. One of the largest generations in history. Characterized by good music, protests, and experiments in previously taboo activities. Now entering a new social phenomenon called “Retirement.”
Generation X, born between 1965-1980. Very individualistic, cynical of institutions, several careers over a life-time. Issues with drugs, labels and brand names, deeply in debt, and suspicious of organizations, but survivors as individuals.
Followed by Generation Y, also known as Millennials. Learned early that the world is not a small place, feel enormous pressure to succeed. Tend to be assertive with strong views. Good team players and an inexplicable tolerance for loud, discordant music.
We come now to Generation Z, or, to use the abbreviation that fits nicely into a text message: “Gen Z.” This is the generation born just before or after the year 2000. A significant aspect of this generation is the widespread use of the internet from an early age. It is also characterized as a generation of unsettlement and insecurity. Generation Z (one wonders what comes after the last letter of the alphabet) make up 25% of the U.S. population. You are a more conservative and more spiritual generation in a long while. You are loyal, compassionate, open-minded, and determined.
You are also in nearly constant contact with your smartphones, which, if I may speak frankly, is a bit irritating to some older generations.
The use of social media has become integrated into your daily lives. In due course, you will develop a more responsible protocol and begin to distinguish mere data into a coherent social philosophy.
There will come a time when my generation and my parents’ generations will leave the stage, so to speak. There will still be six generations, this including your children and grandchildren. No one knows what challenges lie ahead for you, but there is no reason why in the face of those global issues, one day you may be called “The Greatest Generation.”
Although these categories are not definitive, the world needs cooperation among all the peoples of this planet. The ideological divisions that categorize our times are not doing the world any favors. Next week, I will speak more specifically to the Seniors at the Baccalaureate Mass. In the meanwhile, on behalf of all of us, we wish you Seniors well, we thank you for your many contributions to our school community. And please keep in touch – text, email, Snapchat, or whatever, we need you to stay in touch.
Finally, I want to speak briefly about this academic year now passing into history. There have been many challenges, some sad events and a new and sometimes anxious atmosphere. Even in the best of times, the end of the year can be stressful. There are exams, of course, and there is the unknown future. What we don’t know can often cause uncertainty and even fear.
In light of that, let me tell you about what was happening in Great Britain in 1940, the Greatest Generation’s finest hour, just before the United States entered the war. It was agreed by all that Germany was preparing to invade Great Britain.
In response, the British government prepared a series of posters to prepare the people for what seemed like a certain invasion. These posters were put up in post offices all over the country. In those days, the post office was the center of community life. They also acted as banks and many had tea rooms attached. The British love their tea. Everyone went to the post office.
There were three posters prepared. The first was blue with white letters. At the top was a stylized imperial crown and in large white letters, the following words were printed:
Will Bring us Victory
not too catchy.
The second poster was green. Again, the crown on top, with the following words in large white letters:
Freedom is in Peril
As the invasion seemed immanent, the government sent out a third poster. But Hitler changed his mind and attacked the Soviet Union instead. Safe from invasion, the British government ordered all the third posters destroyed.
However, about 5 years ago, 15 of the original posters were found in Fife, near St. Andrews in Scotland. They became an instant, if belated success. Here is a copy of one of those third posters. If it was an original, it would be worth several 10s of thousands of dollars and this sermon would be coming to you via skype in Hawaii.
Here’s the copy with good advice on how to get through the next two weeks:
Keep Calm and Carry On