The Greatest Generation

A book that should be must reading for every teenage and adult American is Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation.  The book consists of a series of brief (2-5 page) vignettes from different people representing elements of our Greatest Generation.  And it’s an inspiring story.

The book draws on concise personal histories of those who fought in World War II, those who helped at home in the war effort, and those who made major contributions to re-building the U.S. and Europe after the war.  Some of these people are famous, and some are quite anonymous.  But each, in his or her own way, helped America stand up to the very real threat to world peace posed by Hitler and the Axis nations, or helped the world re-build after the devastation wrought be World War II.

At the conclusion of this book, I couldn’t help but agree with Brokaw’s rationale for calling this generation of Americans our “greatest” generation.  My experience with U.S. involvement in wars has been limited to two bankrupt and ill-conceived initiatives — Vietnam and Iraq.  Neither made a shred of sense, cost us many lives, tore our nation apart, and cost our government, to a large measure, the trust of its own people and peoples around the world. 

But World War II was different.  The dangers posed to the free world by Germany and Japan were immense, and their atrocities were beyond words.  The U.S., after being bombed by the Japanese, entered the war and U.S. citizens willingly sacrificed in every conceivable way, and some 418,000 people from the U.S. gave their lives to protect the free world, in a war which resulted in the death of almost 73 million people

If you haven’t read The Greatest Generation, go out and buy it today.  You’ll read it in a short period of time, and won’t want to put it down.  But this “greatest” generation stands in stark contrast to today’s, when we pick foolish wars to waste lives on, and where almost no one is willing to sacrifice in the face of challenges — global warming, energy, the divide between the rich and the poor — that threaten the future of the entire world.

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