Barack Obama is often described as the first post–baby boom president. As a baby boomer, I feel obliged to point out that technically that’s not ?true. Obama was born in 1961, which is three years before the unofficial end of the boomer era. I admit, this is a sensitive issue for me and my generational cohort. Having come of age amid the schisms over Vietnam, civil rights, and the sexual revolution, boomers tend to? see the world in bifurcated terms—as in, Whose side are you on? The late- and post-boomers—what some are already calling “Generation O”—are supposedly mellower about ideological divides. But to me, the ?significance of Obama’s age is neither political nor cultural. It’s personal: He’s the first president who’s younger than I.
I know—baby boomers have an annoying tendency to view the world through self-reflective lenses. But have a little sympathy. We were the ones who created the original “youth culture.” We invented the generation gap. Then it turned out that the normal rules of aging applied to us, too, and it has required some existential realignment as a new generation of artists, entrepreneurs, and leaders have come up behind us and left their mark on the world. Being older than the guys who, say, invented YouTube and Facebook was bad enough. From now on, when we take the measure of our lives and careers, we’ll have to deal with the perplexing fact that the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, can think of us as the old guys. There can be only one explanation: Obviously, Obama is way too young for the job.
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