Silent Generation

The name Silent Generation was coined in the November 5, 1951 cover story of Time to refer to the generation coming of age at the time. The phrase gained further currency after William Manchester's comment that the members of this generation were "withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent." The name was used by Strauss and Howe in their book Generations as their designation for that generation in the United States of America born from 1925 to 1942. The generation is also known as the Postwar Generation and the Seekers, when it is not neglected altogether and placed by marketers in the same category as the G.I., or "Greatest", Generation. In England they were named the Air Raid Generation as children growing up amidst the crossfire of World War II.

According to Strauss and Howe's interpretation, the typical grandparents were of the Missionary Generation; their parents were of the Lost Generation and G.I. Generation. Their children are Baby Boomers and Generation X (a/k/a 13th Generation); their typical grandchildren are of the Generation Y (a/k/a Millennials.)

The Silent are the generational stuffings of a sandwich between the get-it-done but narcissistic G.I.s and the vocal but self-absorbed Boomers. Well into their rising adulthood, they looked to the G.I.s for role models and pursued what then looked to be a lifetime of refining, humanizing, and ameliorating a G.I.-built world. Come the mid-1960s, the Silent fell under the trance of their free-spirited next-juniors, the Boomers. As songwriters, graduate students, and young attorneys, they mentored the Consciousness Revolution, founding several of the organizations of political dissent the Boom would later radicalize.

The Silent grew up as the suffocated children of war and depression. They came of age too late to be war heroes (they fought in Korean conflict to a tie) and just too early to be youthful free spirits. Instead, this early-marrying Lonely Crowd became the risk-averse technicians, sensitive rock-n-rollers ("Why must I be a teenager in love?") brooding Method actors and civil rights advocates of a post-Crisis era in which conformity seemed a sure ticket to success. Midlife was an anxious "passage" for a generation torn between stolid elders and passionate juniors. Their surge to power coincided with fragmenting families, cultural diversity, institutional complexity, and prolific litigation. In 2003, they are entering elderhood with unprecedented affluence, a hip style, and a reputation for indecision.

David Foot in Boom Bust and Echo takes a very different perspective on this group arguing that those born in the '30s and early '40s are the most successful generation. He argues that because so few people were born during the depression and the war that employment opportunities were abundant and this group quickly rose to the top and became the management and superiors of the great mass of baby boomers that came after them. Using economic indicators he finds that 1938 was the best year to be born in North America, in terms of economic success. The impact of the generation was also great culturally, as the musicians and thinkers such as Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Bob Dylan who shaped the fashions of the younger boomers formed the engine behind the 1960s and 1970s.

Silent celebrities include the following:

Prominent non-U.S. peers include Fidel Castro, Anne Frank, Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, Václav Havel, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Dalida (died in 1987), and three of The BeatlesJohn Lennon (died 1980), Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr.

Cultural endowments of the Silent Generation include:

The Silent generation has produced America's late 20th century and early 21st century facilitators and technocrats. They produced four decades of Presidential aides:

And three First Ladies:

But no Presidents.

They achieved a majority on the United States Supreme Court in 1993 with the appointment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Preceded by:
G.I. Generation
Silent Generation
Succeeded by:
Baby Boomers

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