Generational change. A passing of the torch. A recent Associated Press article points out these terms have been thrown around with frequency as the moment nears for Barack Obama to take the oath of presidential office.
And there's also been numerous references to Obama's relatively young age — at 47, he's tied for fifth place on the youngest presidents list with Grover Cleveland.Obama is technically a Baby Boomer; he was born in 1961. But Obama is a young Baby Boomer, raised post-Vietnam War and coming of age in the 1980s. As a result, he has often been characterized as Generation X (1965-1981) and more often Generation Jones, a name for the generation staddling the Boomers and Generation X.In any case, Obama long has sought to draw a generational contrast between himself and the politicians who came before him. He has positioned himself as a problem-solver and change-maker from the beginning, rather than focusing on the right-left ideology underlying the issues."I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage," Obama wrote of the 2000 and 2004 elections in his book, The Audacity of Hope.As a result, social analysts, historians, journalists, bloggers, and ordinary Americans alike believe Inauguration Day will symbolize a new era in politics and the passing of an entire generation from power: the Baby Boomer era.It's been a while since historians spoke of generational change in Washington. Sixteen years have passed since Bill Clinton, the first Boomer president, took office. Before that, presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush — seven straight — were part of the World War II generation, also referred to as the Silent and Traditional generation.
And while the average age of the new Congress is 58.2 —the oldest average in history — it is also home to Aaron Schock, the youngest member of Congress and the first to be born in the 1980s. The 27-year-old Illinois Republican is already a political veteran: he won a seat on Peoria's school board at 19, rose to school-board president at 23 and then won two terms in the Illinois state legislature.Plus, the new president is bringing some "Jonesers" with him to the White House. Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is 47. Education secretary, Arne Duncan, is 44, as is Susan Rice, U.N. ambassador. (His apparent pick for surgeon general, 39-year-old neurosurgeon and TV correspondent Sanjay Gupta, is a true Gen Xer.)Of course, Obama is also bringing in veteran Clintonites — most notably Hillary Rodham Clinton, 61, as secretary of state. And his vice president, Joe Biden, 66, and defense secretary Robert Gates, 65, are pre-boomers.But those are the kind of choices — inclusive of other perspectives, embracing rivals — that lead many to call Obama the first post-Boomer president.He's been referred to as "a generational bridge" brilliantly leveraging the communication behaviors of post-Boomers with a campaign waged across the Web, on cell phones and on social networking sites. And never before have we had a president who's troubled about giving up his Blackberry.Will Obama speak of generational change when he stands on the podium to issue his inaugural address? Given some of his rhetoric on the campaign trail, it's reasonable to think he will — just as some six months before Obama was born, JFK pronounced on Inauguration Day that "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace."Interestingly, Kennedy is often claimed by Boomers to be one of their own, even though he was nothing of the kind; born in 1917, he'd be 91 now.In the same way, many Gen Xers and even Gen Yers like to claim Obama as one of their own, too.Generational change. A passing of the torch. This is history in the making.
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