The Most Influential People in our Lives
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          Besides our parents, who haven't always come first and who suffered through the ignominy of the decade-long Generation Gap -- our generation, their gap -- several men have had enormous influence over us. When you look at our history, even Elvis and the Beatles pale before Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Richard Nixon

 The paranoia that came to characterize the Sixties youth culture reached all the way into the Oval Office where it conspired with the dark side of Nixon's character to turn his administration into the sort of invasive, abusive, oppressive nightmare we' d been protesting against. What's worse, almost as many of us died in Southeast Asia after he came to power pledging Peace with Honor as under LBJ. He single-handedly destroyed faith in our public institutions and left our society terribly divided and que stioning itself.


Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King gave us our idealism and inspiration. He has easily had the most positive influence over us -- and many others as well. His eloquence alone would have stirred our hearts and minds. But his resolution, his bravery in the face of adversity taugh t us to aspire to greatness. He cast a shinning beacon that grew stronger even after his personal light was snuffed out.


Dr. Benjamin Spock


"...I think that more of our children would grow up happier and more stable if they were acquiring a conviction, all through childhood, that the most important and the most fulfilling thing that human beings can do to serve humanity in some fashion and to live by their ideals ... If you raise a child who has idealism he will have no lack of opportunities to apply it." Our parents took these optimistic ideas to heart. And to a large extent raised the baby boomers by his counsel, indulgent while instilli ng "the feeling that [we] are in this world not for [our] own satisfaction but primarily to serve others." He told our parents their job was to create a generation of dreamers that would originate to new designs for life that might free our countrymen fro m economic turmoil and destructive wars. He wanted this new generation of babies to be reformers with a feel for the past and an eye to the future. To do that he urged our mothers to breast feed us, to nurture us towards our full potential. In doing so he may not have allowed for the impatience such lofty goals might have instilled in an affluent and protected generation.


John F. Kennedy


Stirring though his rhetoric, inspirational though his youthful vigah and optimism may have been, JFK's lasting legacy came from his assassination. While it remains one of the great ifs of our generation -- If he had only lived -- the fact is ou r generational paranoia, our mistrust of authority burst forth with his strange death. The alienation might have come anyway. But we've never gotten past the feeling that conspirators took him away to prevent change.


Ronald Reagan


Ronald Reagan made us proud to be Americans again. He restored our moribund sense of honor and pride and we loved him for it. But his feet were of clay. His administration committed worse transgressions against the public trust that Nixon's. Like JFK, Reagan was shallow and a monumental hypocrite. His rhetoric about values was just that. He lied with tears of righteousness in his eyes. He never attended church except for funerals. They both preached Christianity but consulted astrologers. And he and Na ncy were hardly the role model parents they pretended to be. His eight years left Americans disliking and mistrusting their government even more -- and a national debt that threatened to wreck the lives of children yet to be born.


Elvis Presley


He took race music, the blues, added a dash of country and unleashed rock n' rock on the world. With his white bucks, long sideburns, DA haircut, pump-action pelvis, defiant sneer and nearly feminine sex appeal, he was kid on the block with an a ttitude. The juvenile delinquent older brother in the leather jacket and hot rod Ford who broke the culture barriers that we would later obliterate.


The Beatles


We knew we were in for something extraordinary when John, Paul, George and Ringo hit our shores. Beatlemania was generational. But it didn't stop with them. It started. Although John denied it, the Beatles were present at the beginning of the cultural revolution. They gave our music dignity and perfection. Their cheekiness showed us how to be something other than miniature adults.


Bob Moses

 Most boomers have not heard of this great man, a true hero who represented what it means to dedicate oneself for the good of the people. As a young man inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins he left Harvard and headed South to participate in the Civil Righ ts Movement. He coined what became the motto of the young people in the movement (and to a degree our generation). "Go where the spirit say go and do what the spirit say do." He ran a voter education projects in the Mississippi Delta and helped organize t he Freedom Election in 1963. When members of SNCC wanted to keep whites out of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, largely his creation, it was he who insisted that whites were needed to bring national attention to the dire racial situation in the Deep South. He lived with the people, suffered beatings and arrests in order to defeat Jim Crow. After painful years of service, with an MA from Harvard in the philosophy of math, seven years teaching in Tanzania and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, he returned to Mississippi to start the revolutionary Algebra Project he designed to teach higher math to underprivileged children.


Bob Dylan


He put the intellectual muscle into the times. Trite though it sounds now, Dylan made us sit down and listen to the words -- and take their meaning to heart. He was always more troubadour than musician, more critic than inspiration, and more eccentric than he needed to be. But he was our own.

Timothy Leary


Social disfunction resulted from this man's lame, pretentious and misleading ideas. Though we romanticized the search for enlightenment, taking drugs and dropping out of society was no way to achieve it. We were desperate for meaning and a leader to fi ll the vacuum in our lives. Leary came along and filled it with balderdash. In his way he was as deceitful as Richard Nixon.

Jerry Falwell


Let us never undervalue the importance of the religious revival that began in the mid-70's. This Fourth Great Awakening came to us through via televangelists like Falwell. Although his arrogance and spitefulness led pollsters to declare him the Most Ha ted Man in America for a number of years, the message he and his cohort brought was one of family, tradition, Christianity and strict morality. These values became the rallying cry for boomers leading the counterrevolution that may come to have a more las ting effect than the counterculture. Unfortunately, the man's pride blinded him to his own less than charitable attitude towards his fellow man. He was no Dr. King.


Bill Gates


The richest boomer. The richest American. This visionary, and others like him, such as Steven Jobs, Steve Wozinak, and Richard Allen, have changed our lives to a greater extent than 60's or 90's radicals could ever hope to achieve. When it's all said a nd done, Microsoft's innovative software and Apple's home computers, facilitated the computer revolution that is restructuring our existence on the planet.


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