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“Every generation inherits a world it never made; and, as it does so, it automatically becomes the trustee of that world for those who come after. In due course, each generation makes its own accounting to its children.” ~ Robert Kennedy

I have a friend who would get angry, truly angry, when people would refer to him as a “Gen Xer.” What he didn’t like were the stereotypes about our generation – ironic, unenthusiastic, flannel-wearing and banging our heads to grunge music.

“Those labels don’t apply to me,” he would say. And they didn’t, not really.

However, he became reconciled to the fact that he did, indeed, belong to Generation X when he came to understand that the description is just a demographic term. He was born in 1967, and anyone born between 1965-1979 is part of Generation X.

“The greatest generation was formed first by the Great Depression. They shared everything - meals, jobs, clothing.” ~ Tom Brokaw

“Our generation has had no great war, no great depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk

I got to thinking about this the other day when I  got an article in the mail from  the Minnesota Association of School Administrators called “Generation What?” talking about the generations and the differences between them.  

Because, let’s face it, there are differences. You grow up in a cohort of folks using the same technology, sharing the same history and many of the same cultural influences. Every individual is different, but everyone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons will know where this quote comes from: “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!” That’s just one tiny thing we will always have in common – but there are a thousand similar things, and they all add up.

Of course, all the generations have one thing in common. As Mr. George Orwell points out, “Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”

In a book called “Gen Z @ work” by David and Jonah Stillman, the authors break it down like this.

• The “Traditionalists” were the generation of 75 million born before 1946. They upheld values of loyalty and patriotism, and were unlikely to share personal feelings freely.

• The “Baby Boomers” were the generation of 80 million born between 1946 and 1964. They pursued the idea of the “American Dream” that was promised to them, and tend to be idealistic.

• “Generation X” were the 60 million from 1965-79, and were children during a time of shifting societal values. They have less definable characteristics than the generations they are sandwiched between.

• “Millennials” are the 82 million born between 1980-94. They came of age during an economic expansion and grew up with computers and high-speed technology.

• “Generation Z” are the 73 million who have been growing up in the aftermath of 9/11 and the Great Recession. They tend to be driven and competitive.

“Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors.” ~ Jim Morrison

The point of that piece – and the point of this one – is to offer a gentle reminder that every generation is a little different. Each generation has been shaped by the conditions it grew up in, and sometimes there can be friction between them – different standards, different styles of working and different styles of communication. I know I see the world differently than my parents do, and I know that my stepkids see the world even more differently.  

To me, that’s good. Trying to see the world through somebody else’s eyes usually helps me to see a little more widely, and a little more clearly. The world keeps changing, and so must we.

And on that note – congratulations to the graduating class of 2018! Here’s wishing you a bright future, and the hope that you leave this world a little better than you found it.

“Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.” ~ Ronald Reagan

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