My generation is remembered as the one that cried: "Make love, not war." We were full of optimism and promise. We set out to change the world for the better, embracing desegregation, championing women's equality and helping to end the war in Vietnam.
Today, we are mired in another senseless war; we face a new threat -- long-term terrorism, and the country is yet again in turmoil. We have not figured out how to adequately care for our elders, the quality of the environment has declined, and our public school system is providing a mediocre education. How will our grandchildren be prepared for the 21st century?
Senator Barack Obama has touched a nerve. If he runs for President he says it will be in part because he represents a much needed new generation with a new outlook. This suggests a need for an alternative to the misguided, ineffective approach of the Baby Boomers.
This hurts because it rings so true. If we, the Baby Boom generation really took an honest assessment, we would have to admit to a dismal performance. What kind of world are we leaving behind?
Sure, we have learned to create wealth and a vibrant economy, but have our material needs become an obsession that distorts our priorities? Has this insatiable quest for the good life overshadowed the importance of family and community?
Of course there are many among us who have made a significant contribution to society. Like Bill Gates pioneering a new world of technology and then creating the most significant foundation in history, addressing poverty, AIDS, health care and the like.
Arguably this generation has produced three of the most powerful women in the country: Nancy Pelosi, who shattered the marble ceiling by becoming the first woman Speaker of the House and proclaiming, put children first. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, first ever first lady to become Senator winning respect on both sides of the aisle through her diligence and intelligence and who is seriously considered a leading democratic candidate for President, which would be another first for woman. Oprah Winfrey has made integrity and inspiration her hallmark.
In a recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, after opening a state of the art Girls Leadership School in Africa, Oprah claimed she does not want to "just do good," but she wants to change the way people view the world. I think it is fair to say that sentiment would describe the goals of all three of these spectacular women.
Dr. Francis Collins is another influential Baby Boomer who, as Director of the Human Genome Project at NIH, led the first successful and revolutionary attempt to map our genome, which has resulted in numerous medical advancements. Former Vice President Al Gore has made environmentalism the hallmark of his life's work, waking us up to the realities of global warming through his award winning documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."
So while some would say, it's time to pass the mantle...I think not.
We Baby Boomers are young yet, with the benefit of time, experience and/or money. I'm reminded of a commercial I saw recently. It pictured a fit grey haired woman obviously in a developing nation, in khakis and rolled up sleeves bending over to help a child. At the bottom of the screen it read: "This is what retirement can look like."
There are unending opportunities for us to follow our passion. Mine is politics...because we must. Nothing impacts our lives more than the decisions of our political leaders, for the good or the bad, as we have seen in the last six years. Also, I believe there are great leaders who need our support now more than ever.
There is also extraordinary work being accomplished by NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) here and abroad, who are in dire need of talent and experience. President Clinton highlights this work with his Clinton Global Initiative. Through the work of his foundation it is evident the impact and power of the individual. The CGI brings much needed attention to the great accomplishments of many of these organizations and then challenges us to get involved. With the click of a mouse, the CGI makes it easy to match one's passion with one of the many worthy organizations that last year resulted in an astonishing $7 billion of commitments.
All this to say: Thank you Senator Obama and President Clinton for the wake up call. We Baby Boomers have an opportunity to write a successful close to this chapter, to leave behind a legacy and a world in which we are proud to have our children live.