I am a child of the Sixties, just like the president. We grew up in the seventies and took on our adult responsibilities in the eighties and beyond. Just knowing that this president was probably listening to a lot of the same R&B and Classic Oldies that I listened to growing up makes me feel a natural affinity for Barack Obama as a person. I certainly don't know him and will likely never meet him, but I'm intrigued at what our shared generation symbolizes for America and its place in the world.
I come from a family of Jonesers, with three out of five of us children born between 1954 and 1965. My two oldest brothers were part of the Baby Boomer generation (1942-1953), tied to the war years and the post-World War II economy. Don and Steve grew up eligible for the Vietnam draft. I recall as a kid playing dolls in our basement when my mom and dad announced that they were buying land in Canada just in case my Boomer brothers got drafted. It didn't come to that.
Vietnam was a far-away fairy tale. It might as well have been an episode on The Twilight Zone. I have no memory of Vietnam's personal impact other than a sense of joy throughout our family household that my brothers were spared something that wasn't good.
Boomers like my LA friend Joan Sekler became anti-war activists in the 60s and are still fighting the powers that be in their 60s. To Joanie, Iraq is just a bad memory of Vietnam. She can't understand why we aren't all taking to the streets to confront the a-holes running these interventionist wars. She can recall where she was when both Kennedys were shot and when Martin was cut down by an assassin in a run-down hotel across from the Lorraine Motel.
I can recall where I was when the last episode of The Waltons and The Brady Bunch aired. Watergate was a gate to keep out water, for all I knew. It was only years later that I discovered it was the name of a hotel, residence and office building where Nixon operatives burglarized Democratic Party headquarters.
Generation Jones is stuck in the middle between Boomers and GenXers. Barack Obama is a Joneser (1961), married to wife Michelle, another Joneser (1964), and with an inner circle dominated by Jonesers: Timothy Geithner, education secretary Arne Duncan, and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. We're known as the forgotten generation or the generation caught in the middle. We tend to eschew extremes and seek common ground and practical solutions to problems.
This may in part explain why Sarah Palin touched me differently than she did my liberal Democratic friends. She's a Joneser and her ah-shucks pragmatism, though highly ridiculed by Tina Fey and mainstream media, resonated with me. I could identify with her, just as I could identify with Barack and Michelle.
All Jonesers were too young to be part of the Sixties Protests. We're not Flower Children but Sixties Babies. We came of age in the 1980s and any protesting we did was more middle of the road than fringe.
My first vote for president was Ronald Reagan, who for two terms dominated my political consciousness. Reagan taught me about the importance of political persuasion and influence, which has become my life's work.
With his Harvard law degree, Barack Obama went to Chicago to do community organizing. While teaching full-time as a political science professor, I represented the good government citizens' lobby, Common Cause in New Hampshire, a position I held as a self-described acavist (academic activist). My high point on the government reform trail was meeting presidential candidate George W. Bush while dressed up as a chef. My protest style was more whimsical than cynical. My chef's bowl read: "Recipe for a Presidency: Lots and Lots of Dough."
A Joneser never loses her sense of humor, even in the midst of making a point.
Dr. Nancy Snow's latest book is Persuader-in-Chief: Global Opinion and Public Diplomacy in the Age of Obama.