Back atcha Boomers: The tribute list
Okay, okay. So last week's piece got us a lot of flak for railing on the Baby Boomers and some of their breaches in trust. But it's a new week and, well let's face it, we really aren't here to demonize an entire generation. As Gen Xers we do have an interest, though, in exploring the challenges that we (and Gens Y and Z, for that matter) will inherit as the Baby Boomers begin to exit the workforce. And we're looking forward to further exploring how generations can come together to find solutions to today's concerns.
But first: time to make amends. Here are some of the most well known, most successful, most predictable Baby Boomers (and one movie) to ever grace a five-point list. We're kicking this homage off with the big-name icons, and we'll give you our take on why they're trusted by younger generations. Then you can take over in the comments section with your shout-outs to all the other, more surprising Boomers you grew up respecting--and whose honest and energetic ways you value.
1. Oprah Winfrey, the American Woman
That's right, we're starting with Oprah.
Forbes named Winfrey the most powerful celebrity four times, most recently in 2010, and she is the only person to be included in all eight issues of the Time 100, a yearly catalogue of the world's 100 most influential people. A star-powered symbol of the Baby Boomer's early efforts to advance civil rights and gender equity, Oprah is...Oh let's just say it: she's the contemporary personification of the American Dream.
Born to unwed teenage parents in rural Mississippi, she was so poor throughout her childhood that she occasionally substituted potato sacks for clothing. Through the years, her daytime show has continually evolved, first highlighting the dysfunctional and then shifting to a more solution-focused approach with an emphasis on spirituality, uplifting stories and solving modern day issues. Oprah has reached millions of people through television, film, publications and more, and the billionaire has continually provided an honest glimpse of herself by publicly discussing her struggles with weight and romance. While Oprah's 24-year run as the queen of daytime talk will end this year (she decided to call it quits late in 2009), we can't help admitting that we'll be following her next move.
2. Bruce Springsteen, the Lyricist; and Bono, the Activist
We grouped Springsteen and Bono together because, in different ways, they both illustrate the power of music. While Springsteen speaks through his art, Bono has transcended the concert hall, making his voice heard in the worlds of politics and social activism. Springsteen is gritty and real, capturing the common concerns of our everyday lives. Bono is electric and effervescent, proving that pop can have substance. From Live Aid to Band Aid, reflecting the anguish of contemporary catastrophe or speaking out against social ills, Springsteen and Bono have led the way in using their celebrity influence and talent to make a difference. Throughout their careers they have inspired creativity and awareness with innovation and passion, and for that we'll tune in.
3. Star Wars, the Saga of Good over Evil
Perhaps the first mass-media, commercially charged campaign guided by moral righteousness and the value of good, Star Wars has proven that doing the right thing can bring in big bucks. We chose the entire world of Star Wars for item No. 3 because, yeah, it's Star Wars. Oh and also because of its social impact, and the cast of famous Baby Boomers who created it. Throughout our lifetime the Star Wars franchise seems to only get stronger, and with all 6 of the live-action cinematic titles in the All-Time Worldwide Box Office top 70, that's hard to imagine. Accounting for ticket price inflation, the original Star Wars is the second highest grossing film of all time, only behind Gone with the Wind.
While the revenue-producing power and longevity of this epic concept is stunning, it also grabbed our attention for pushing the boundaries of special effects, capitalizing on the concept of the thematic trilogy, launching the careers of notable Baby Boomers (Harrison Ford, George Lucas, Marc Hamill, Carrie Fisher)--and for preserving peace and unity throughout the galaxy. Star Wars seems more of a phenomenon than any singular event, but it's worth noting that the initial trilogy really did speak (in a deep, raspy Darth Vader tone) to the values of nobility, loyalty and decency.
4. Steve Jobs, the Innovator; and Bill Gates, the Philanthropist
Jobs and Gates both came of age in an industry that has revolutionized nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From work to entertainment, maintaining old friendships to making new ones, computers have continually changed the way we interact with the world. Jobs is a once-in-a-generation visionary who seems to have secured his place amongst the likes of Franklin, Edison and Ford. The innovations Jobs has inspired through Apple and Pixar have altered our cultural landscape. Although an innovator in his own right, Gates is most inspiring as a philanthropist. Along with Warren Buffett, Gates has rallied the nation's wealthiest to pledge at least half their fortunes to charity. Leading the charge, Gates may have overshadowed his corporate success through his efforts with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. With his wife and father by his side, Gates has set the bar for philanthropic giving, awarding nearly $23 billion in grants to health and development programs worldwide. In looking at Gates and Jobs we not only see inspiring thinkers and dogged doers, we also see creative givers who stir us to make a difference.
5. Jon Stewart, the Satirist
Stewart has won 13 Emmy's and 2 Peabody awards for his work on The Daily Show, and has made the job of articulating the media's shortcomings an art form. Who else can single handedly get a 20 year-old program on a major news network cancelled? He has exposed the deception inherent in financial-news programming during an interview with Mad Money host Jim Cramer, and even got Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, to concede that the government can provide excellent health care. More than anything, Stewart leads with honesty. He holds the figureheads of his generation accountable, connecting with younger generations in the process. And his satiric but real effort later this week to bring measured discourse back to politics is just another example of how he's continually striving to raise awareness about issues we are all better for pondering.
From blockbuster Boomer celebrities to personal experiences with parents, teachers and coaches, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude and harbor a deep respect for our elder generations. Now let's hear it: who tops your Boomer tribute list, and why?
October 26, 2010; 1:01 PM ET
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