Sunday, January 14, 2001
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Posted on: Sunday, January 14, 2001

From the 'Greatest' to the 'Millennials'

Bush gives Silent Generation a voice

By John Griffin

Social scientist-researchers William Strauss and Neil Howe are authors of several provocative books on changing population patterns, starting in 1991 with "Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069."

These include the five generations evident in our society. With some personal comments from me, they are:

The G.I. Generation, persons born 1901 through 1924. This is the group author-TV anchor Tom Brokaw termed the "Greatest Generation." It suffered the Great Depression, fought World War II, took on the Cold War and pioneered the modern senior citizen movement.

In Hawaii, this generation often came off the plantations and sparked the 1950s social revolution that led to the rise of the Democratic Party. A number of its members are still active in senior affairs.

The Silent Generation, born 1925-1942. This group is most often labeled "adaptive" or "reactive," with no program of its own and no great challenges. Yet it did bear the brunt in fighting the Korean War and idealistic younger members later staffed the civil rights movement and were among the first Peace Corps volunteers. In Hawaii, Silents inherited the Democratic revolution, enhanced it (and often themselves) with creature comforts, and joined the then-new "Old-Boy Network" of political back scratching. Economically, it embraced mass tourism and missed a lot of boats on more imaginative diversification.

The Boom Generation, born 1943-1960, exploded on the scene in the 1960s with protests, new music and flower children. Hawaii Boomers, seldom very violent in the old days, often have become the establishment they once deplored. They often talk the old talk and still vote Democratic but the kids go to Punahou or Iolani.

The Thirteenth Generation, born 1961-1981. This is the group that was labeled "Generation X" early on, a negative term for a group Strauss and Howe predicted would be "reactive." Others used words like "aimless" and "slackers."

The jury may still be out, but many now see Xers as a more serious group that is making its way in the shadow of the numerous and assertive Boomers. One of the hopes I have is that this generation and the one that follows will be the ones that lead Hawaii out of its ruts.

The Millennial Generation, born 1982-?, is even more a work in progress than the Xers. But that hasn’t stopped Strauss and Howe from praising them in a new book titled "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation."

A review in last Wednesday’s Advertiser said this group is "less violent, less sexually charged and less vulgar. ... They are more numerous, more affluent, better educated and more ethnically diverse than any other youth generation in living memory."

Wow! As the grandfather of a couple of diverse (Latino, Asian and haole) young Millennials, I’ll be checking that out.

John Griffin, former editor of The Advertiser’s editorial section, is a frequent contributor to these pages (e-mail:

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