Then there are shifts that occur once a decade, when the balance of power shifts from one generation to another. Such a shift occurred in the 1950s, when the WWII generation, kids in their late 20s and early 30s, decided to settle down, start families and pack away their war memories.
In 1993, Bill Clinton became the first boomer president. Soon, Congress, the media and industry were full of us.
Fast forward to 2014. The Veterans Administration is not the only institution controlled by “older folks” who are in charge of a lot of “younger folks.”
Paul Reickhoff, the CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told NBC that after Eric Shinseki became VA chief in 2009, “numerous younger staffers have departed high posts at the agency, creating a drain of tech-savvy, media-astute professionals.”
This generation gap cuts across all communities. Right here in La Cañada, think of the nonprofits that you support. Is the organization tech savvy? Is it old school? New school? What exposure do the leaders have to other organizations, to new ways of doing things? Case in point: the La Cañada Thursday Club. A new generation of women is serving on the board. They have new ideas, new ways of doing things. They even use email. (When I was president of the club, we didn’t get to do that.)
The Bowe Bergdahl dustup in the White House Rose Garden? It featured a 52-year-old commander in chief. The troops that have served in our current long wars, including Bergdahl’s platoon, are now in their late 20s and early 30s. Compounding the age gap is the civil-military divide in a nation where less than 1% have served.
We all faced this when we were young. One generation does not willingly gives up power to the next. That’s why, last month, I joined the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), not as a “member,” but as a “supporter.”
And it was free! There’s no charge to sign up as a supporter of the nation’s lead advocacy group for our youngest veterans. I opted in to the daily e-briefing, which alerts me to news about Congress, the military and veterans.
The current VA scandal is a nonpartisan issue which cuts across the generations and party lines. Granted, there are political differences. Democrats want a bigger VA system and Republicans want to provide access to private healthcare. Democrats balk at modifying the civil service protections for federal employees and Republicans want the VA to be able to quickly fire bad employees.
Suddenly, a compromise! Two old guys, Bernie Sanders (Ind-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ) collaborated on proposed legislation. Why did they work together? The public has bombarded their offices with emails, letters and phone calls urging support for our veterans. Maybe McCain and Sanders actually listened.
As for myself, I am biased. My heart is open to the long war vets because they are in the same generation as our late son, 2nd Lt. Andrew Torres, USMC (1980-2004). Andrew never got to be a vet. He died on active duty of cancer. As a mom, it gives me strength to see the long war veterans come into their own. They are truly “the next greatest generation.” We can’t let them down.
--ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @anitabrenner.