Those of us that are from the baby boomer generation (1946 – 1964) have been impacted by many events, but some just stand out, and have so much meaning that they bear reflecting upon. Selecting such events are a personal thing, so your choices may vary from mine.
1. The JFK Assassination
The majority of people alive today, were not around in 1963, so they cannot comprehend the impact of that event. I will always remember the date, November 22 (the day after my birthday).
I lived in Canada at the time and was signing my name to a year 12 exam paper, when an announcement came over the Public Address System that the President, John Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. His assassination left me and millions of others in a numb state of disbelief. Suddenly, the person representing strength and stability was gone, and in that moment, the world felt fractured and unstable.
Since that day, I have been to Dealey Plaza (the site of the assassination) several times and the feeling is surreal. The plaza itself looks smaller than how it appeared on TV and there is a mark on the roadway indicating the site of the deadly deed. Being there also makes you realize that you are at the site of one of the most significant historical events of the 20th century. The event is forever imprinted in my mind.
2. Lunar Landing 1969
On July 27, 1969 I was a friend’s, watching the event unfold as Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. John Kennedy implored the United States to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade of the 60’s and it was achieved. It was an amazing scientific and technological feat, and showed that when a nation or people put their focus and intent on something, the results can be incredible.
It was remarkable to think that man had set foot on another celestial body. Flights to the moon lasted until 1972 and no one has been there since. In fact, the U.S. currently cannot even launch a man (or woman) into earth orbit. There is an old biblical proverb; “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. It seems that this proverb applies not just to people but to nations as well.
The moon mission for me shows what is possible and how important purpose is in life. It seems that America has lost its purpose. We can all learn from that lesson.
3. Collapse Of The “Iron Curtain”
From the end of the Second World War, the “iron curtain” symbolized the separation between the eastern, communistic, repressive world and the western, democratic, free world. For decades it seemed that it was the way of the world and it would never change until the year 1989.
Because of deteriorating economic conditions, a liberal Soviet President, named Gorbachev and an insatiable desire by people in the eastern bloc countries for freedom, change was afoot. In country after country, the communist regimes fell like a stack of dominos. In Romania, where my family was from, the restrictions under communism were so severe that life was almost intolerable at times. Thankfully, the Romanian revolution changed all that.
This episode in history has taught us that there is an inherant human desire and need for freedom of expression. Many of the people from those countries have gone on to contribute, using their freely available skills for the betterment of society.
4. Invention Of The Personal Computer
The personal computer came on the scene in the late 1970’s. It was really the start of the technological revolution we have today; the internet, smarphones, ipads, all developed as extensions of the personal computer.
Having grown up with manual typewriters, as many of you did, it was hard to imagine devices that could give access to so much, in so many different places and to connect the world in so many different ways. It has given every individual a greater sense of freedom, and an increased ability for self-expression. Today, the mobile phone has much more computing power than the Apollo spacecraft which took men to the moon.
One of the philosophical questions we have to ask ourselves is whether or not we have lost the personal face-to-face communication skills of yesteryear as the result of these devices. As I sit here blogging away, instead of thinking of it as diminishing relationships perhaps it is an addition to them. Only time will tell.
5. Attack On The World Trade Centre
This was another one of those events that seemed incomprehensible. What made it more so was that the attack and its aftermath was televised live. The collapse of the two buildings, after being struck by the aircraft, seemed to symbolize an attack on civilization itself.
It woke us up to the fact that anything is possible. It also was indicative of what can happen when a country or individuals become elated or even arrogant. While no one is deserving of such unspeakable violence, perhaps it showed us that when we are one sided and not humble that we shut ourselves off from the other side.
The attack humbled America. Americans (at least for a while) started to think about what was really important in life instead of full steam ahead thinking only about the next dollar. What it also showed was how a country and individuals could come back against such adversity.