Arthur Schlesinger served as a writer for the Office of War Information during World War II. He later became a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy. Schlesinger “shares the belief of many veterans that the sacrifices of his generation, the defeat of communism, and the extraordinary rise of prosperity make it possible for the younger generations to turn away from domestic politics and international affairs (Brokaw, p. 375).” He calls himself a “short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist” in that he thinks “some future crisis will rally the country and bring out new leaders. These are the cycles of history (Brokaw, p. 375).”
Another member of the greatest generation was Army colonel Robert Nett. He continued serving in the military after WWII and helped it “adapt to the changing times (Brokaw, p. 386).” Retiring in 1973, having served for thirty-three years and fought in three wars, he chose to keep teaching Army leadership courses. Nett wanted to “extend the lessons of his military experience by teaching young people ‘that they should walk proud in the light of what their fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers have accomplished’ (Brokaw, p. 387).” He believes “In addition to education, students must learn to appreciate the views of others (Brokaw, p. 387).”
Speaking of the greatest generation, Brokaw says, “There is a common theme of pride in all that they’ve accomplished for themselves, their families, and their country, and so little clamor for attention, given all they’ve done (Brokaw, p. 388).” He talks of how things have changed for “women and members of ethnic groups who were the objects of acute discrimination even as they served their country” and how they “remember the hurt, but they have not allowed it to cripple them, nor have they invoked it as a claim for special treatment now. They’re much more likely to talk about the gains that have been achieved rather than the pain they suffered (Brokaw, p. 388).”
Brokaw believes “they have given the succeeding generations the opportunity to accumulate great economic wealth, political muscle, and the freedom from foreign oppression to make whatever choices they like (Brokaw, p. 388).” He warns, “For those generations, the challenges are much different, but equally important (Brokaw. P. 388).”
Four years ago, Tom Brokaw wrote in the Opinion section of The Wall Street Journal an article entitled, “Sacrifice and the Greatest Generation.” He reminds us we can learn from them:
“The surviving members of that generation -- now in their 80s and 90s -- are living reminders of the good that can come from hard times. They can teach us that if we're to get through this time of crisis a better nation with a fundamentally stronger economy, we'd better learn how to work together and organize our lives around what we need -- not just what we want (Brokaw, online).”
We as a nation have been greatly blessed by the lives and service of those who served in World War II. They lived great and they died great. Our freedom came at great cost. We would do well to remember them and honor them by practicing the values they exemplified: devotion to God, family, and country; courage, determination, honor, integrity, patriotism, personal responsibility, selflessness, and sense of duty.
Brokaw, Tom. “Sacrifice and the Greatest Generation.” The Wall Street Journal.
June 6, 2009. Accessed April 8, 2013.
Brokaw, Tom. “The Greatest Generation.” New York: Random House, 1998.
Davidson, James West, Brian DeLay, Christine Leigh Heyrman, Mark H. Lytle, and
Michael B. Stoff. Experience History: Interpreting America’s Past. United States of America: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2011.