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NOTE
: THE DEFINING GENERATION is a project begun by Doug and Pam Sterner in 2002 and completed in 2006. Initially is was prepared for publication as a book, however with their changing focus to development of a database of military awards, was postponed indefinitely so they could concentrate on that larger, more important work. The stories found herein however, need to be shared, and they have consented to make this compilation available in this format. While each story can stand alone, it is recommended that for continuity, readers will be best served by reading the chapters sequentially from first to last.

 

The Defining Generation

-

Defining the Future of Politics

All Politics is...Hereditary?

 

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has built a career with his humorous definition of a subculture: "You might be a Redneck if…." Decades ago an early comedian became known and loved for his humorous definition of politics. Regarding our two-party political system he once noted, "The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that's OUT always looks the best." Imagine then, what we might have had could we have combined Jeff Foxworthy with Will Rogers:

Ø      You might be a Republican if:  "You have a business card in your wallet…have a gun in your closet…have the image of a fish on your car's bumper…hire an illegal immigrant to clean your house…live in Utah .

Ø      You might be a Democrat if: "You have a Union Card in your wallet…have pot growing in your closet…have dents in your car's bumper…are related to an illegal immigrant…live in Massachusetts.

Such attempts to generalize and encapsulate the demographics of our system's two major political parties however, is doomed to result in false conclusions, divisive attitudes, and utter failure. The bottom line is, PEOPLE are DIFFERENT! Not just two-political-leanings different but different on many levels. Some Democrats own guns and love to hunt, some Republicans smoke weed. Not all ethnic minorities are Democrats and not all Republicans go to church. Utah does have one Democrat in Congress and Massachusetts does have…we'll, perhaps some day!

The United States is great today BECAUSE of the diversity of its population, not in spite of it. Divergent beliefs, ideas and dreams, when directed towards the common good of all, ultimately result in the greater good of all. This applies differences in ethnicity, gender, religion, and even political affiliations, but extends far further into far more personal differences.

There are few better examples of the value of differences combining for the common good than that of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, our 2nd and 3d Presidents, respectively. Vastly different in many ways and nearly always on a collision course, each with the other, they may well have been the models for Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau in the 1993 movie "Grumpy Old Men." The affection of their competition in the move was a woman, played by Ann Margaret. The object of affection that often pitted Adams and Jefferson against each other but that ultimately always returned them to a common grudging need each for the other was a new nation, the United States of America . 

Seldom in history have two men different, accomplished so much together. John Adams was a Harvard-educated Massachusetts attorney, with a brilliant mind, unrestrained ambition, and a streak of vanity. The latter may well have been a compensation for his height, at only 5'7" tall, only three presidents in history have been shorter. When the United States was born in 1776, Adams evolved into a strong Federalist, advocating for a strong central government in America . In order of precedence he placed the rule of law over the collective will of the people.

Thomas Jefferson, an attorney who became wealthy when he inherited a large Virginia plantation was also gifted with a brilliant mind. President John F. Kennedy centuries later alluded to the great genius of the man in 1962 when he welcomed 42 recipients of the Nobel Prize to the White House with the words, ""I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." At more than 6'2" only two of our Presidents were taller. A simple man who eschewed ego, Jefferson was an anti-Federalist who believed first and foremost in Popular Sovereignty, the collective rule of the people, and secondly in the rights of individual states as opposed to a strong Federal government.

On June 7, 1776 , before adjourning for nearly a month the Continental Congress addressed its ongoing debate about possible independence by assigning a committee of five men to draft a declaration should they vote to declare such independence when they returned in July. Benjamin Franklin, elder statesman of the five, became ill and thus the task of writing the initial draft should have fallen to John Adams, senior to Thomas Jefferson by 7 years. Adams , in what was an uncommon deference to another, passed to Jefferson responsibility for doing the primary draft. It is sometimes said that after arguing back and forth over the issue, Adams gritted his teeth and grudgingly stated flatly to Jefferson , "You are ten times the writer I am." While Adams is well remembered for his eloquent letters, what he spoke was indeed true. He deferred to Jefferson knowing well that the document the five were to present to Congress within weeks demanded the BEST--and when it came to the pen, few could match the talents of learned Thomas Jefferson.

When Congress reconvened on July 2, 1776 , Thomas Jefferson's draft, after minor revision and editing by the other four members of the committee, was presented as the American Declaration of Independence. It remains today one of the greatest literary works of all time, but excellent writing alone was not enough to sway Congress to cast a vote that might result in the death of all present. While Jefferson was masterful with pen and paper, when asked to speak he was totally lost. Here however, John Adams excelled above nearly all men of his time, and most thereafter. So it was Adams who rose to speak in behalf of Jefferson 's words and, primarily because those two vastly different men relied on the different abilities each of the other, a new nation was born.

If that were all there was to the story of Adams and Jefferson, it would be enough to illustrate the importance of opposing forces uniting for a common good. But there was to be more, for the two men comfortable times and times when they were at odds. Following the American Revolution while Adams was serving a diplomatic role in England and Jefferson in France , the two had occasion to visit and established a mutual respect, if not something of a distant friendship. Due their foreign service, neither of them were present for the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where a new form of government was hotly debated. Adams however, as a Federalist favored the strong central government. Jefferson himself was livid that his young nation had forsaken his original precepts of Popular Sovereignty to establish a powerful, new Federal system.

During the Presidency of George Washington, John Adams served as Vice President and Thomas Jefferson as Secretary of State. Their differences of opinion may have made getting the two men to work together one of President Washington's greatest tasks. When he declined to run for a third term the election of 1796 primarily pitted Adams and Jefferson against each other. Adams won by 3 electoral votes to become our 2d President, Jefferson as runner up, became Vice President.*

In context of today's electoral process such an administration is hard to envision…imagine what it would have been like had George H.W. Bush been Bill Clinton's Vice President, or picture Al Gore serving as George W. Bush's veep. The situation certainly did little to ease the animosity between Adams and Jefferson for the four years until 1800. Relationships were further strained by John Adams' penchant for pomp and circumstance, abhorred by Jefferson as being far too European and aristocratic. When trouble with France , called the Quasi-War broke out in 1798, President Adams exercised his power to push Congress to enact the Alien and Sedition Acts in the name of national security. Jefferson believed these unconstitutional and an abuse of power, fighting the President as he could and ultimately defeating his reelection bid in 1800 to become our 3d President. After the inauguration President Jefferson immediately pardoned all who had been arrested under these acts.

After two terms as President a tired and aging Thomas Jefferson returned home to Monticello . In the years that followed he and Former-President Adams exchanged many great and wonderful letters. Throughout their lives they seemed to be two very different men who needed each other, if for no other reason than to have someone to fight with. The highly competitive Adams did note his unwillingness to be outdone by Jefferson , seven years his junior, by promising he would out-live the younger man.

On July 4, 1826 , John Adams resignedly uttered his last words: "Thomas Jefferson survives." What he did not, indeed could not know, was that only hours earlier at Monticello , Thomas Jefferson himself had also passed away. Two very different men, regular adversaries who's one commonality was their love to build a new nation were dead, fifty years to-the-day after the historic declaration they had worked together to achieve was formally adopted.

Differences, discord, dialog and compromise have long been the key to the political process in America . When the Constitutional Convention concluded on September 17, 1787 , NONE of the various delegates was happy--indeed, no one had got everything they wanted. Most of them understood however, that they had worked together and compromised to start a process with long-range implications.

Someone once noted, "If I'm too strict and my wife is too lenient, between the two of us our children have ONE good parent." It is an approach that speaks to balance--opposites leaning towards each other. Today we identify political affiliations in terms of left vs. right. If these two pull away from each other, both fall. But if they lean towards each other they meet in the middle and prop each other up. Neither has changed the direction they lean in terms of right or left, but both have leaned their separate ways to meet together for the common good.

The Democratic Party, often identified as the Party of Big Government, evolved ironically out of the early anti-Federalist party. It became formally established with the inauguration of Andrew Jackson in 1829 and adopted the donkey as its symbol after Jackson 's opponent John Quincy Adams once referred to him as a "jackass." Over the next three decades the Democratic Party became linked to the support of slavery, quite in contrast to the leading role it would assume more than a century later in efforts to advance Civil Rights. Under Jeffersonian Democracy the party sought to involve the American people in increasing roles in government and the political process.

The Whig Party broke with Jeffersonian Democracy primarily on the issue of executive versus legislative powers, preferring legislative supremacy. Pro-business, Whigs looked beyond the people as individuals to promote the growth of business and economic gain. At odds with Democrats in their opposition to slavery, Whigs saw the successful election of two of their party members as President (William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor) in their brief three decades as a major political party.

In 1854 the Whigs metamorphosis into the Republican Party when they merged forces with Northern Democrats and Free-Soilers, primarily in opposition to slavery. In addition to actively speaking against slavery, the new party was progressive in seeking to expanding and modernizing higher education, as well as promoting individual business venture. When Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, was elected President in 1860, the two-party political system we know today was born and began its evolution.

Of course it must be noted that there have always been others, perhaps most notably Former President Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose Party (Progressive Party) in 1912 and Ross Perot's nameless independent bid for the Presidency in 1992 that led to the Reform Party being established in 1995. There are also Libertarians, Populists, Socialists, Greens, and any number of additional political parties. These have never, with the exceptions of Roosevelt and Perot, ever mounted a serious challenge to White House power, but do serve an important function of speaking to the differences of segments of America who feel disaffected by the two major parties.

Because the political process is constantly changing and evolving--Jackson certainly wouldn't recognized his Democratic Party of today and Lincoln would find much in the current Republican Party with which to take issue, the impact of the Defining Generation may have been too subtle to be much more than a blip on the radar. In fact during those turbulent '60s the American political process underwent some major areas of change, not the least of which was a more overt freedom of expression and dissent as discussed in the last section.

Long-time Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Thomas "Tip" O'Neill once said, "All politics is local." His point was to illustrate how issues and problems back home impacted the actions of the Representatives and Senators at home. It is a long-standing principle that did not change during our generation, it was simply re-defined. In early America local meant "here in my own town or city." Early newspapers sometimes took days to reach rural and/or western towns and, by the time news arrived it was old news from far away. Improvements in communications, the telegraph and more-speedy modes of transportation, soon expanded the meaning of the word "local" to include counties, then districts, and even a whole state. When radio became broadly available in the early 1900s it was possible for people in even the smallest and most remote of American cities to get news in real time, and events and political concerns broadened the citizenry's scope of political concern.

More than anything else in history however, when television became available to nearly every family in America in the 1950s, the political process underwent dramatic change. As pointed out in the first chapter of this book, the ability to see the handsome and youthful John F. Kennedy as he challenged a visibly older Richard Nixon in the 1960 Presidential debates certainly marked new areas of concern for would-be politicians. In time the political process began to take on a theatrical appearance that today has left many Americans unable to differentiate between the real world of the political process and the fictionalized process that is Hollywood .

Even more important however were the images we were able to witness either as they happened or shortly thereafter on the nightly news. Images of fire trucks unleashing water hoses on a crowd of Southern Black demonstrators, women unfurling a banner at the Miss America pageant decrying gender bias and exploitation, and body bags being carried off the battlefields in Vietnam gave the Defining Generation a first-hand grasp of world problems. The issues that needed to be addressed in the political arena moved from the "hear-say" of old to the "look and see for yourself" of a more modern time.

The impact of television news was further enhanced by increased opportunities for higher education, the dream of every member of the Greatest Generation for their Baby Boom off spring. A better-educated American populace, especially among the young, coupled with poignant and vivid images of problems in American society struck a visceral cord in a new generation. Even as they outwardly chanted "Tune in, turn on, drop out" they were inexorably pushed to an unavoidable activism. Massive demonstrations, most of them either on behalf of Civil Rights or in opposition to the war in Vietnam , are striking examples of how much more greatly the young of the Defining Generation became in the political process than were their parents and grandparents.

Prior to those years of sweeping change a political leader might well have altered Tip O'Neill's famous quote to note: "All politics is hereditary." Until the days of television it would most likely not be inaccurate to assume that children grew up to mirror the political beliefs of their parents. If dad was an iron worker, chances are he was a Union member and also a Democrat whose sons would follow him into both. If dad owned a large business chances were he was also a Republican whose sons would inherit both dad's business and his political leanings. If dad was a poor Black man living in the South, chances were he didn't claim either party because the system at the time did everything it could to deny his voting rights--and the same would be true for his sons.

If it appears that the previous is too gender biased, it is. Generally, until women began to find their own sense of freedom and liberty in the 1960s, mom was expected to vote the way dad told her to vote. (One has to wonder however, how many women in the secrecy of the voting booth, may have purposely voted exactly opposite what they were told as the one act of personal liberty they could get away with.)

Inundated with unprecedented education and information, young people of the Defining Generation began to ask serious questions:

Ø      "How can mom and dad want laws against Playboy magazine? After all, the pictures look no more improper than the picture of the lady I saw painted on the fuselage of the bomber dad flew in World War II."

Ø      "How can mom and dad expect me to do my duty and join the Army when all I see is dead young soldiers coming home in body bags?"

Ø      "How can my church preach about brotherly love when I see Black Americans being beaten by police and killed by the KKK?"

Ø      "How can Congress spend billions of dollars on missiles and warheads when children in our own country go to bed hungry at night?

 

The ultimate question many began to ask of themselves was, "How can I fix all these problems I am watching on television?" The young began to find their own answers, and America went through perhaps its greatest period of change.

As a final observation on politics, it could also be said that "All politics is subject to change." This is especially true as events in our lives change. First Lady Nancy Reagan broke with her own party's stand on stem cell research when her husband was afflicted with Alzheimers. Vice President Dick Cheney was silent on gay rights in a party that generally opposed the same when it too, became a family matter.

Someone once put this tendency towards situational politics by pointing out, "A Conservative is a Liberal who has just been robbed, while a Liberal is a Conservative who has just been arrested." Indeed, all politics is subject to change and change it did when the Defining Generation came of age.



* Until the 12th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1804, the President and Vice President were elected separately, the one with the most votes becoming President and the 2d place finisher named to the Vice Presidency.

 

 

The Defining Generation: Copyright © 2006 by Doug and Pam Sterner
All Rights Reserved

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Cover & Introduction
     Preface
Out With the Old
     The Defining Generation

I. - Defining the New
     John Fitzgerald Kennedy
     Roger H.C. Donlon
     Robert Robin Moore
     Barry Sadler
     The Green Beret

II. - Defining Equality
     When Worlds Collide
     Dr. Martin Luther King
     Jimmy Stanford & Vince Yrineo
     Milton Lee Olive, III
     Specialist Lawrence Joel
     Sammy Lee Davis
     Black MOH Recipients - Vietnam War

III. - Defining the Role of the Sexes
     Evolution of a Husband
     Remember the Ladies
     Rosie the Riveter
     Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard
     Linda G. Alvarado
     Karen Irene Offutt
     Women in Military Service
     Lieutenant General Carol Mutter
     The Modern Woman in Combat
IV. - Defining Human Rights
     My Brother's Keeper
     Who is My Brother
     Christopher Dodd & Christopher Shays
     Peace Corps Politicians (Memories)
     Don Bendell
     Sir Edward Artis
     General Colin L. Powell

V. - Defining Entertainment
     Life Imitating Art
     Troubled Waters
     Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
     Brian's Song
     All in the Family
     Adrian Cronauer

VI. - Defining Dissent

     From Berkeley With Love
     The Pen and the Sword
     General David Shoup
     Muhammad Ali
     John Forbes Kerry

VII. - Defining the Future of Politics
     An Act of Congress
     All Politics is....Hereditary?
     Hillary Rodham Clinton
     Condoleezza Rice
     James Henry Webb
The next Section is scheduled for posting on May 20, 2011
VIII. - Defining Memories
     Jaime Pacheco
     The Glory of their Deeds
     Jan Scruggs
     Delbert Schmeling
     Peter C. Lemon

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
The authors extend our thanks to the following who granted personal interviews for this work
: Roger Donlon (MOH), Robin Moore, Don Bendell, Jimmy Stanford, Vince Yrineo, Sammy L. Davis (MOH), Linda Alvarado, Karen Offutt, Lieutenant General Carol Mutter, Sir Edward Artis, General Colin L. Powell, Katharine Houghton, Adrian Cronauer, Jan Scruggs, Delbert Schmeling, and Peter Lemon (MOH).
Our thanks to the staff of the following who either wrote or allowed reprint of their own works for this book: Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard, Don Bendell, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman Thomas Petri, Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Jim Walsh, Governor Jim Doyle, and Scott Baron.
Our special thanks also to the staff of the following who provided information and fact-checked the chapters related to their subject: Staff of Senator John Kerry, Staff of (then) Senator Hillary Clinton, Staff of Senator Jim Webb
A SPECIAL THANKS also to Dr. Marguerite Guzman Bouvard for his assistance in writing and editing the entire section on the Role of the Sexes.

 

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