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Generational Sociology and Boomers

Karl Mannheim, a founding father of the field of sociology, conceived the essence of generational theory through a seminal 1923 essay entitled "The Problem of Generations." Mannheim insisted that when a youth cohort faces substantial turmoil during its formative years between ages 12 and 25, a sense of generational identification strengthens.

The leading-edge of the Boomer generation came of age between 1964 and 1975, an intense era of social, political, and technological changes. Protest marches, lifestyle experimentation, and social role reinvention became hallmarks of Boomer youth, a movement full of fervor, fun, and fantastical ideas about reorganizing society and culture.

Quantitative Research Supports Generational Theory

Even before I became fully aware of Mannheim's theories, and as I was finishing the first draft of Marketing to Leading-Edge Baby Boomers in 2002, I was convinced that Baby Boomers had substantial generational affinity influenced by extraordinary turmoil during our youth, buttressed by a mass-market advertising industry that had targeted us since we were in diapers. 

But I had no quantitative evidence, other than the insights I have gained since 1978 from creating myriad successful advertising and promotional campaigns targeting Boomers.  

The Pew Research Center conducted a national survey from March 10 through April 15, 2015. Researchers studied 3,147 adults who are part of their American Trends Panel, "a nationally representative sample of randomly selected U.S. adults surveyed online and by mail."

Pew's study concluded that Baby Boomers have the most pervasive sense of generational identification when compared with four other living generations: The Greatest Generation, the Silent Generation, Generation X, and Millennials or Generation Y. Pew concluded: "Fully 79% of those born between 1946 and 1964, the widely used age range of this generation, identify as Boomers. That is by far the strongest identification with a generational name of any cohort."

Not only do the majority of Boomers identify with their generational label, 70 percent also feel that their assigned generational label applies to them "very well (31 percent) or fairly well (39 percent)."

Research evidence suggests that shared generational values formed during external conflicts and cultural turmoil do not perish with time passing; rather, the sociological phenomena typical of Boomer youth are finding newer ways of manifestation as the generation ages. Shared generational values can also be thought of as "collective mentalities" or "dominant ways of thinking."

How can marketers tap into the powerful influence of generational values? 

One method is to employ nostalgic memories creatively, and this has been done successfully by a number of international companies, including Subaru, Ameriprise Financial, and Fidelity Investments. 

Here's how Volkswagen recently created a nostalgic advertising message targeting Boomers: 

The People First Warranty | Volkswagen “Rain” Commercial (60 Seconds) - YouTube

Another method is to address topical issues confronting members of the generation today, such as possible exposure to the hepatitis C virus infection. Gilead Pharmaceuticals directly addressed Boomers in the following commercial: 

Gilead TV Spot, 'Hepatitis C and Baby Boomers' Original - YouTube

Whichever method advertisers use to attract attention and instill positive brand impressions with Boomers, it is critical that creative directors and copywriters understand subtleties and nuances of what it means to have reached adulthood during the Vietnam War era.

Like all generations, we retain positive memories of our youthful years and struggles. Like all generations, we have contemporary needs, wants, and concerns unique to our generational journey.

Appropriated vs. Acquired Memories

Generational theory recognizes that memories we appropriate from other generations — meaning we experience those memories vicariously — are not as powerful as memories we acquire through experiences during adolescence and young adulthood.

To members of other generations, Woodstock may sometimes be seen as a hackneyed cliche. To Boomers, the festival represents a time and place when everything changed in dramatic ways, whether or not as individuals we attended.

To members of other generations, being at risk for infection with Hep C may represent a moral failing of too much "free love." To Boomers, the possibility of being infected hearkens back to memories of long-lost lovers when "making love" was not seen as something awful but rather natural. 

Advertisers need cogent advice from those who understand generational nuances, not just those who are strategic and creative, and that, in a nutshell, is the purpose of my consulting business.

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Having grown up in Topeka, Kansas, I have a profound and ironic connection to the nascent Civil Rights movement. Before 1954, which happened to be the year I started Kindergarten, racial segregation was common in American schools, as it was in Topeka, especially elementary schools.

Public school administrators forced African-American children to attend schools often encumbered by substandard facilities and many miles from their homes, although white-only schools existed in nearby neighborhoods.

This inequity of course led to Oliver L. Brown et. al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka

Brown et al. v. Board of Education was a case that contested the Kansas statute of 1879 permitting the segregation of public elementary schools. At the very least, the national focus accorded to the Brown decision and its unprecedented outcome in the Supreme Court make it a legal landmark. The plaintiffs argued that separate elementary schools were an impediment to black children's education.

I had no awareness of this Supreme Court decision during my first few years in elementary school, and Southwest Elementary School (now Whitson Elementary) remained mostly white. There is not a single individual of color in any of my class photos from that time.

However, as we started the 6th grade, my class anticipated a special teacher, someone who had developed a celebrity status in our school—Mr. J. B. Holland.

A kind and erudite African-American teacher, Mr. Holland stopped by our class three times weekly to teach science. Up to that point, I had been an average student, demonstrating modest enthusiasm for learning, but Mr. Holland stimulated a dormant zeal for science; he set fire to my passion for learning about chemistry and biology. I remember rehearsing arcane and difficult biology terms, with atypical effort and repetition, to impress this extraordinary educator and to win his encouragement. He commanded attention in the classroom, and his wit and clarity opened minds.

I was not alone in my reactions to Mr. Holland. Here is how he has been described in historical background information concerning Monroe Elementary School, epicenter of the Brown decision:

J. B. Holland might have been one of the "supreme" black teachers of Topeka. Frank Wilson served as principal in the newly-integrated Whitson Elementary School over Holland, who had once been principal of Monroe Elementary School. Wilson praised Holland as "one of the most outstanding teachers I had ever come across." He also said that parents were anxious to get their children into a class with Mr. Holland because of his reputation as an entertaining and motivating instructor: "They would fight and bleed and die to get into that class."

Growing up in a significant crucible of racial divisiveness, I nevertheless owe my lifelong passion for learning to a man who probably lived daily with veiled and obvious Jim Crow realities everywhere in Topeka but inside his magical classroom. I know from subsequent adult conversations with my classmates that Mr. Holland was an influential early mentor to most of us in our long-term educational quest.

This story has been permanently encapsulated as oral history in the Library of Congress, my firsthand witness to the American Civil Rights Movement.

Many Baby Boomers who received stimulating and inspiring lessons in life from Mr. Holland owe his memory a debt of gratitude.

Many others growing up elsewhere also had positive formative experiences directly or indirectly because of African-American mentors: coaches, ministers, college educators, physicians, civic leaders, professional athletes, Hollywood actors, and, of course, Martin Luther King.

Baby Boomers sat on the front row of racial integration in America, and now it is our time to demonstrate our thankfulness for the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all the brave souls who led this nation's Civil Rights movement.

I encourage those who grew up during the 1950's, 60's and 70's to reflect upon their own discoveries and awakenings that were nurtured by African-American heroes, personal and public. Please post your memories and appreciation in the comments section.

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Churches have had declining attendance for several decades, and today only 20% of Americans attend weekly services. Between 4,000 and 7,000 churches close their doors yearly.

Can churches turn this around?

In my keynote address at a national conference for leaders of The United Methodist Church, appropriately called Boomerstock, I emphasized novel generational strategies, coupled with intelligent branding and marketing tactics.

My recommendations boil down to two fundamental marketing principles: 1) understand the target market — in this case Baby Boomers — through nuanced psychological and sociological insights; and 2) develop the product and evolve branding to satisfy market needs, including current religious, spiritual and socioemotional motivations.

Boomers, as they are today, must become the renewed priority of churches. Dr. Steve McSwain, religious thought leader and communications professor at the University of Kentucky, stressed this demographic priority in his Huffington Post article:

America is aging. Go into almost any traditional, mainline church in America, observe the attendees and you’ll quickly see a disproportionate number of gray-headed folks in comparison to all the others. According to Pew Research, every day for the next 16 years, 10,000 new baby boomers will enter retirement. If you cannot see where this is headed, my friend, there is not much you can see.

I would modify Dr. McSwain's conclusions slightly: every day 10,000+ Boomers reach age 65, or traditional retirement age. They do not all retire. Many continue working beyond the traditional retirement age. However, with aging comes renewed interest in deeper existential questions and fundamental religious concerns. Erik Erikson's notion of generativity prevails. Searching for spiritual answers is becoming part of the generational zeitgeist once again, somewhat reminiscent of the spiritual and religious movements of the 1960's and 1970's. The explosive growth of mega-churches showcasing contemporary worship themes is partly testament to this trend.

Boomers today have the money and latent motivations to revitalize churches throughout the nation. This opportunity is awaiting enlightened church leadership ready to envision and co-create religious institutions for the 21st century.  

Here are a few excerpts from my speech:

BOOMERS: Launching a Ministry Movement - YouTube

 

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Waking from a fitful dream, he struggled out of bed and stumbled to a barred window. From this perspective in the asylum, he beheld a clear night, a large morning star enchanting him. The sight of stars always inspired him. Just as we take a train from Paris to Amsterdam, he thought, we take death to go to a star.

About a year later, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He was 37 years old.

Life started more hopefully for him. He was son of a country minister who valued education. He memorized more than three-fourths of the Bible. As a young man, he lived in Paris and worked for his uncle who was a successful art dealer. He learned and mastered four languages.

He also fell deeply in love with his landlady’s daughter, who rejected him in favor of another. This rejection devastated him and led to his being fired from his uncle’s gallery.

He decided to follow his father’s footsteps and devote his life to God. Preachers being punished by the Methodist Church were often sent off to southern Belgium to coalmining territories where retched conditions prevailed. He volunteered for this assignment, finding special inspiration working with the poor and oppressed. He was quite effective as a spiritual counselor, and the miners nicknamed him “Christ of the Coal Mines.”

Church leaders did not see him as an asset but rather as undignified, so they fired him. Again, he sought refuge in his family and even became captivated by his widowed cousin, Kate. He declared his love for her, which Kate and her parents found repulsive.

Finally, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to pursuing art. His younger brother saw potential in his paintings and agreed to support him with a monthly stipend. An art dealer, his brother believed the older brother’s paintings might sell in Paris.

During the next ten years, he moved around Europe while befriending artist peers. He started an artist’s union in a town near Paris where notable artists visited and painted with him.

The stipend his brother, Theo, gave him was adequate for living expenses but not for models, canvases, and expensive oil paints. He often lived solely on coffee, cigarettes, bread, and the psychedelic liqueur absinthe. He had a habit of putting his paintbrushes in his mouth, exposing him to lead poisoning. He also sipped turpentine from time to time.

These horrible health practices and the hallucinogenic effects of absinthe contributed to occasional spells of madness and thus the asylum that I described at the beginning of this story.

Yet he worked at a feverish pace. He wrote, “The power of work is a second youth.”

During ten years of prodigious output, he created over 2,100 paintings. Yet he did not gain the favor of rich art collectors. People in the town where he lived treated him viciously and even signed a petition asking government officials for his removal.

During this decade of frenetic work, his younger brother was only able to sell a single painting for the equivalent of $2,300 today.

Vincent van Gogh, who preferred to sign his paintings with just Vincent, felt despondent, lonely, and rejected for most of his adult life. He shot himself in the chest as a final act of self-loathing, although he did not successfully kill himself outright. He died two days later in the arms of his devoted brother, Theo.

Today, we view Vincent as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. The 1889 painting inspired by the clear night while he was in an asylum became known as “The Starry Night” and is housed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His painting called “Irises” sold for $54 million dollars at auction. Another painting, a portrait of a doctor who cared for him in the asylum, sold for $83 million dollars.

Vincent’s story can be a lesson for all of us. He went to his grave seeing himself as a loser. He felt unloved, misunderstood, and rejected by all but his younger brother.

Most of us experience some of the pain that followed Vincent through his life. Maybe we fail to achieve our most private dream. Or we lose in love. Or we feel misunderstood. These feelings are part of the human experience.

Vincent’s story teaches us that in the end we may never know the full scope of our impact on the world. Our total influence may emerge after we are gone.

Next time things don’t work out, remember Vincent, an asylum and a painting called “The Starry Night.” It is a priceless masterpiece and one enduring legacy of a downtrodden and defeated man who created the work.

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This is a true story about how 12-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer gave my brilliant next-door neighbor hope for a future he would not live to see. A sparkling YouTube video of the Oklahoma City ventriloquist's audition for America's Got Talent would be the last video he would ever watch. 

When my wife, Becky, and I walked into the Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital that bright June day, he seemed as lucid as I remembered him during our many conversations and neighborhood gatherings spanning more than two decades. He was engaged, intellectual, funny, and circumspect. His animated chat careened from philosophical to silly, connected to transcendent, and physical to existential.

Herbert I. Jacobson had turned 86 nine months earlier. He looked and seemed to be in his sixties rather than shooting for the tenth decade of life. He never once needed hospitalization throughout his long life, but in May he became dehydrated and required hospital care. After being re-hydrated and stabilized, his physicians sent him home for a quick recovery. Yet he did not get better, and within another week he needed emergency hospitalization, this time for severe electrolyte imbalances. A life-threatening situation spiraled out of control, leading to deterioration of his kidneys and heart. Physicians declared his condition terminal.

Within minutes after our arrival, Herb launched into a conversation that Dr. Robert Butler described as life review. Dr. Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and psychiatrist, identified life review as a cathartic process that helps those diagnosed with a terminal condition affirm value and meaning in their lives.

Dedicating Everything He Had to Helping Another Girl, His Daughter

When she was a child, his daughter became inflicted by Gaucher disease (pronounced go-SHAY), more likely in people whose ancestors originate from the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish population. Herb tirelessly lobbied, fund-raised, cajoled, and pleaded for financial support to fight and treat this cruel disease. He testified before Congress, pressing elected officials until the nation’s legislators agreed to support funding for The Metabolic Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado, recognized internationally for its expertise in diagnosis and treatment of metabolic disorders.

We discussed his years as a volunteer docent at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science. He served as a guide for an exhibit called “Space Odyssey,” an immersive, interactive experience to teach guests about the cosmos. He loved to grab the attention of children touring the museum. His favorite icebreaker joke would be to ask a child like Darci her age. When she answered, “Twelve,” Herb then would reply, “When I was your age, I was fourteen!”

A former school teacher who loved teaching children, he sometimes shared his grave concerns about the future. A child of the 1930’s, raised in a New York orphanage, he knew deprivation on a level most cannot comprehend. He had spent formative years enduring hardships without parents and stable surroundings. He grew up scrabbling for means to a good life. He believed that the US Constitution does not automatically transfer from generation to generation with inviolable guarantees. He was concerned that today’s digital distractions and cultural narcissism might crumble the nation’s foundations. A young generation lacking rigorous liberal education, rich with history and its lessons, worried him most.

Five days before Herb died, this spunky twelve-year-old girl from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, appeared on the twelfth season premiere of America’s Got Talent, a reality show on the NBC television network. The popular talent contest features singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, and other performers of all ages competing for a top prize of one million dollars and a chance to headline a show in Las Vegas. Aware of his pessimistic perspective, I brought with me an anecdote to assuage his concerns about the nation’s future. I loaded a YouTube video onto my iPhone and said, “I want you to feel optimistic about the future for our nation’s youngest generations. Here is an example of possibilities for a brighter future.” 

Petunia

She walked onstage with an endearing smile. She carried a puppet she calls Petunia – a whimsical white rabbit with large pointed ears and wide eyes encircled by mascara. She announced to judge Simon Cowell that her name is Darci Lynne. When asked by Cowell why she decided to enter the show, she answered, “Well, it was one of my big dreams, but also I would like to keep ventriloquism alive because it’s not common.”

Then she looked at her animated puppet and said, “Are you ready?” Petunia replied, “Hit it!” as orchestral music lifted. Darci Lynne feigned surprise by saying, “You’re going to sing? Oh, boy!” Suddenly Petunia opened her mouth wide and began singing Summertime.

As Petunia astounded the audience, Darci Lynne smiled sweetly, innocently. The five judges became flabbergasted, not quite believing that a petite child, so young and inexperienced, could sing with such force and in tune without moving her lips. Not once. She demonstrated poise, self-confidence, rapport with the judges and audience, shocking mastery of ventriloquism for such a young age, an uncanny ability to split her personality between Petunia and the real Darci, all while achieving vocal range beyond the reach of most children.

Darci Lynne Sang A Timeless Song Popular During Herb's Youth

Her song seemed perfect for the tastes of a dying man who had spent years cherishing music that helped define his formative years, causing him to eventually store over 35,000 jazz and Big Band recordings on his beloved iPod. Summertime, an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, is one of the most covered songs of all time, with interpretations by performers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Janis Joplin.

After she finished, studio audience members jumped to their feet and honored the gifted girl with a standing ovation. Her shy giggles transformed into Bambi tears. Speaking in turn, each judge praised her for a charming performance. Judge Mel B said, “You make my heart melt. You were brilliant! I’m trying to describe how amazing it was. You know what?” Mel B jumped up and slapped a buzzer.

The Golden Buzzer may be activated only once by each judge per season. Mel B’s buzzer slap meant that Darci Lynne would advance to the final live shows without needing to compete at lower tiers. As gold confetti rained from the studio ceiling, the Oklahoma City girl became overcome by sweet emotions: disbelieving, crying, squealing, and jumping with joy.

Herb Jacobson

Herb was charmed and astounded by her talent. He was uplifted by her bold and sophisticated interpretation of a hit song from his youth. His final request was for me to share this video with Sharon, his wife, soon after he passed away.

An amazing ninety minutes concluded as he weakly transferred from a recliner to his hospital bed. A few others in the room began to weep. He saw this sadness and said, “I’m sorry ... I’m sorry.” These words expressed his regret for leaving his family yet revealed courage that he had accepted his fate.

He completed his life journey holding onto a secular theology articulated by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century. Heschel wrote:

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

As we stood to leave the ICU, knowingly saying goodbye for the last time, he stretched out his hand to shake mine, his face a mystery in this moment so full of meaning. I said, “I’m not going to say good-bye, Herb. Rather, I’ll see you again.” He appeared quizzical, reflective. I shook once more. “I’ll see you again.”

Bolstered by his life review and entertained by a gifted girl from Oklahoma, Herb Jacobson’s final hours became a summertime day glorified with radical amazement. He was ready to spread his wings “and take to the sky.”

Darci Lynne: 12-Year-Old Singing Ventriloquist Gets Golden Buzzer - America's Got Talent 2017 - YouTube

UPDATE

This story has gone viral on Twitter, with thousands of readers expressing sadness, joy, love, and gratitude. I'm so pleased that my post has garnered a wider audience, bringing public attention to the life of a good neighbor and a father figure to me. Of equal beauty is the following Tweet from Darci Lynne's mother, Misty Farmer: 

And my heart melted once again when I discovered a Tweet from Darci Lynne, written in the plainspoken style of a remarkable young lady: 



Brent Green is the author of six books about Boomers, business and aging. His newest book is Questions of the Spirit: The Quest for Understanding at a Time of Loss. Copyright 2017, Brent Green & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

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This is a true story about how 12-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer gave my brilliant next-door neighbor hope for a future he would not live to see. A sparkling YouTube video of the Oklahoma City ventriloquist's audition for America's Got Talent would be the last video he would ever watch. 

When we walked into the Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital that bright June day, he seemed as lucid as I remembered him during our many conversations and neighborhood gatherings spanning more than two decades. He was engaged, intellectual, funny, and circumspect. His animated chat careened from philosophical to silly, connected to transcendent, and physical to existential.

Herbert I. Jacobson had turned 86 nine months earlier. He looked and seemed to be in his sixties rather than shooting for the tenth decade of life. He never once needed hospitalization, but in May he became dehydrated and required hospital care. After being re-hydrated and stabilized, his physicians sent him home for a quick recovery. Yet he did not get better, and within another week he needed emergency hospitalization, this time for severe electrolyte imbalances. A life-threatening situation spiraled out of control, leading to deterioration of his kidneys and heart. Physicians declared his condition terminal.

Within minutes after our arrival, Herb launched into a conversation that Dr. Robert Butler described as life review. Dr. Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and psychiatrist, identified life review as a cathartic process that helps those diagnosed with a terminal condition affirm value and meaning in their lives.

Dedicating Everything He Could to Helping Another Girl, His Daughter

When she was a child, his daughter became inflicted by Gaucher disease (pronounced go-SHAY), more likely in people whose ancestors originate from the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish population. Herb had tirelessly lobbied, fund-raised, cajoled, and pleaded for financial support to fight and treat this cruel disease. He testified before Congress, pressing elected officials until the nation’s legislators agreed to support funding for The Metabolic Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado, recognized internationally for its expertise in diagnosis and treatment of metabolic disorders.

We discussed his years as a volunteer docent at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science. He served as a guide for an exhibit called “Space Odyssey,” an immersive, interactive experience to teach guests about the cosmos. He loved to grab the attention of children touring the museum. His favorite icebreaker joke would be to ask a child like Darci her age. When she answered, “Twelve,” Herb then would reply, “When I was your age, I was fourteen!”

A former school teacher who loved teaching children, he had sometimes shared his grave concerns about the future. A child of the 1930’s, raised in a New York orphanage, he knew deprivation on a level most cannot comprehend. He had spent formative years enduring hardships without parents and stable surroundings. He grew up scrabbling for means to a good life. He believed that the US Constitution does not automatically transfer from generation to generation with inviolable guarantees. He was concerned that today’s digital distractions and cultural narcissism might crumble the nation’s foundations. A young generation lacking rigorous liberal education, rich with history and its lessons, worried him most.

Darci Lynne with Petunia

Aware of his pessimistic perspective, I brought with me an anecdote to assuage his concerns about the nation’s future. I loaded a YouTube video onto my iPhone and said, “I want you to feel optimism about the future for this nation’s youngest generations. Here is an example of possibilities for a brighter future.”

Five days before Herb died, this twelve-year-old girl from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, appeared on the twelfth season premiere of America’s Got Talent, a reality show on the NBC television network. The popular talent contest features singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, and other performers of all ages competing for a top prize of one million dollars and a chance to headline a show in Las Vegas.

She walked onstage with an endearing smile. She carried a puppet she calls Petunia – a whimsical white rabbit with large pointed ears and wide eyes encircled by mascara. She announced to judge Simon Cowell that her name is Darci Lynne. When asked by Cowell why she decided to enter the show, she answered, “Well, it was one of my big dreams, but also I would like to keep ventriloquism alive because it’s not common.”

Then she looked at her animated puppet and said, “Are you ready?” Petunia replied, “Hit it!” as orchestral music lifted. Darci Lynne feigned surprise by saying, “You’re going to sing? Oh, boy!” Suddenly Petunia opened her mouth wide and began singing Summertime.

As Petunia astounded the audience, Darci Lynne smiled sweetly, innocently. The five judges became flabbergasted, not quite believing that a petite child, so young and inexperienced, could sing with such force and in tune without moving her lips. Not once. She demonstrated poise, self-confidence, rapport with the judges and audience, shocking mastery of ventriloquism for such a young age, an uncanny ability to split her personality between Petunia and the real Darci, all while achieving vocal range beyond the reach of most children.

Darci Lynne Sang A Timeless Song from Herb's Youth

Her song seemed perfect for the tastes of a dying man who had spent years cherishing music that helped define his youth, causing him to eventually store over 35,000 jazz and Big Band recordings on his beloved iPod. Summertime, an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, is one of the most covered songs of all time, with interpretations by performers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Janis Joplin.

After she finished, studio audience members jumped to their feet and honored the gifted girl with a standing ovation. Her shy giggles transformed into Bambi tears. Speaking in turn, each judge praised her for a charming performance. Judge Mel B said, “You make my heart melt. You were brilliant! I’m trying to describe how amazing it was. You know what?” Mel B jumped up and slapped a buzzer.

The Golden Buzzer may be activated only once by each judge per season. Mel B’s buzzer slap meant that Darci Lynne would advance to the final live shows without needing to compete at lower tiers. As gold confetti rained from the studio ceiling, the Oklahoma City girl became overcome by sweet emotions: disbelieving, crying, squealing, and jumping with joy.

Herb Jacobson

Herb was charmed and astounded by her talent. He was uplifted by her bold and sophisticated interpretation of a hit song from his youth. His final request was for me to share this video with Sharon, his wife, soon after he passed away.

An amazing ninety minutes concluded as he weakly transferred from a recliner to his hospital bed. A few others in the room began to weep. He saw this sadness and said, “I’m sorry ... I’m sorry.” These two words expressed his regret for leaving his family yet revealed courage that he had accepted his fate.

He completed his life journey holding onto a secular theology articulated by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century. Heschel wrote:

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

As we stood to leave the ICU, knowingly saying goodbye for the last time, he stretched out his hand to shake mine, his face a mystery in this moment so full of meaning. I said, “I’m not going to say good-bye, Herb. Rather, I’ll see you again.” He appeared quizzical, reflective. I shook again. “I’ll see you again.”

Bolstered by his life review and entertained by a gifted girl from Oklahoma, Herb Jacobson’s final hours became a summertime day glorified with radical amazement. He was ready to spread his wings “and take to the sky.”

Darci Lynne: 12-Year-Old Singing Ventriloquist Gets Golden Buzzer - America's Got Talent 2017 - YouTube


Brent Green is the author of six books about Boomers, business and aging. His newest book is Questions of the Spirit: The Quest for Understanding at a Time of Loss. Copyright 2017, Brent Green & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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This is a true story about how 12-year-old Darci Lynne Farmer gave my brilliant next-door neighbor hope for a future he would not live to see. A sparkling YouTube video of the Oklahoma City ventriloquist's audition for America's Got Talent would be the last video he would ever watch. 

Herb Jacobson

Herbert I. Jacobson had turned 86 nine months earlier. He looked and seemed to be in his sixties rather than shooting for the tenth decade of life. He never once needed hospitalization, but in May he became dehydrated and required hospital care. After being re-hydrated and stabilized, his physicians sent him home for a quick recovery. Yet he did not get better, and within another week he needed emergency hospitalization, this time for severe electrolyte imbalances. A life-threatening situation spiraled out of control, leading to deterioration of his kidneys and heart. Physicians declared his condition terminal.

When we walked into the Intensive Care Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital that bright June day, he seemed as lucid as I remembered him during our many conversations and neighborhood gatherings spanning more than two decades. He was engaged, intellectual, funny, and circumspect. His animated chat careened from philosophical to silly, connected to transcendent, and physical to existential.

Within minutes after our arrival, Herb launched into a conversation that Dr. Robert Butler described as life review. Dr. Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and psychiatrist, identified life review as a cathartic process that helps those diagnosed with a terminal condition affirm value and meaning in their lives.

Dedicating Everything He Could to Helping Another Girl, His Daughter

When she was a child, his daughter became inflicted by Gaucher disease (pronounced go-SHAY), more likely in people whose ancestors originate from the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish population. Herb had tirelessly lobbied, fund-raised, cajoled, and pleaded for financial support to fight and treat this cruel disease. He testified before Congress, pressing elected officials until the nation’s legislators agreed to support funding for The Metabolic Clinic at Children's Hospital Colorado, recognized internationally for its expertise in diagnosis and treatment of metabolic disorders.

We discussed his years as a volunteer docent at Denver’s Museum of Nature and Science. He served as a guide for an exhibit called “Space Odyssey,” an immersive, interactive experience to teach guests about the cosmos. He loved to grab the attention of children touring the museum. His favorite icebreaker joke would be to ask a child like Darci her age. When she answered, “Twelve,” Herb then would reply, “When I was your age, I was fourteen!”

A former school teacher who loved teaching children, he had sometimes shared his grave concerns about the future. A child of the 1930’s, raised in a New York orphanage, he knew deprivation on a level most cannot comprehend. He had spent formative years enduring hardships without parents and stable surroundings. He grew up scrabbling for means to a good life. He believed that the US Constitution does not automatically transfer from generation to generation with inviolable guarantees. He was concerned that today’s digital distractions and cultural narcissism might crumble the nation’s foundations. A young generation lacking rigorous liberal education, rich with history and its lessons, worried him most.

Aware of his pessimistic perspective, I brought with me an anecdote to assuage his concerns about the nation’s future. I loaded a YouTube video onto my iPhone and said, “I want you to feel optimism about the future for this nation’s youngest generations. Here is an example of possibilities for a brighter future.”

Five days before Herb died, this twelve-year-old girl from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, appeared on the twelfth season premiere of America’s Got Talent, a reality show on the NBC television network. The popular talent contest features singers, dancers, magicians, comedians, and other performers of all ages competing for a top prize of one million dollars and a chance to headline a show in Las Vegas.

She walked onstage with an endearing smile. She carried a puppet she calls Petunia – a whimsical white rabbit with large pointed ears and wide eyes encircled by mascara. She announced to judge Simon Cowell that her name is Darci Lynne. When asked by Cowell why she decided to enter the show, she answered, “Well, it was one of my big dreams, but also I would like to keep ventriloquism alive because it’s not common.”

Then she looked at her animated puppet and said, “Are you ready?” Petunia replied, “Hit it!” as orchestral music lifted. Darci Lynne feigned surprise by saying, “You’re going to sing? Oh, boy!” Suddenly Petunia opened her mouth wide and began singing Summertime.

As Petunia astounded the audience, Darci Lynne smiled sweetly, innocently. The five judges became flabbergasted, not quite believing that a petite child, so young and inexperienced, could sing with such force and in tune without moving her lips. Not once. She demonstrated poise, self-confidence, rapport with the judges and audience, shocking mastery of ventriloquism for such a young age, an uncanny ability to split her personality between Petunia and the real Darci, all while achieving vocal range beyond the reach of most children.

Darci Lynne Sang A Timeless Song from Herb's Youth

Her song seemed perfect for the tastes of a dying man who had spent years cherishing music that helped define his youth, causing him to eventually store over 35,000 jazz and Big Band recordings on his beloved iPod. Summertime, an aria composed in 1934 by George Gershwin for the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess, is one of the most covered songs of all time, with interpretations by performers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Janis Joplin.

After she finished, studio audience members jumped to their feet and honored the gifted girl with a standing ovation. Her shy giggles transformed into Bambi tears. Speaking in turn, each judge praised her for a charming performance. Judge Mel B said, “You make my heart melt. You were brilliant! I’m trying to describe how amazing it was. You know what?” Mel B jumped up and slapped a buzzer.

The Golden Buzzer may be activated only once by each judge per season. Mel B’s buzzer slap meant that Darci Lynne would advance to the final live shows without needing to compete at lower tiers. As gold confetti rained from the studio ceiling, the Oklahoma City girl became overcome by sweet emotions: disbelieving, crying, squealing, and jumping with joy.

Herb was charmed and astounded by her talent. He was uplifted by her bold and sophisticated interpretation of a hit song from his youth. His final request was for me to share this video with Sharon, his wife, soon after he passed away.

An amazing ninety minutes concluded as he weakly transferred from a recliner to his hospital bed. A few others in the room began to weep. He saw this sadness and said, “I’m sorry ... I’m sorry.” These two words expressed his regret for leaving his family yet revealed courage that he had accepted his fate.

He completed his life journey holding onto a secular theology articulated by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Polish-born American rabbi and one of the leading Jewish theologians and philosophers of the 20th century. Heschel wrote:

Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. Get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

As we stood to leave the ICU, knowingly saying goodbye for the last time, he stretched out his hand to shake mine, his face a mystery in this moment so full of meaning. I said, “I’m not going to say good-bye, Herb. Rather, I’ll see you again.” He appeared quizzical, reflective. I shook again. “I’ll see you again.”

Bolstered by his life review and entertained by a gifted girl from Oklahoma, Herb Jacobson’s final hours became a summertime day glorified with radical amazement. He was ready to spread his wings “and take to the sky.”

Darci Lynne: 12-Year-Old Singing Ventriloquist Gets Golden Buzzer - America's Got Talent 2017 - YouTube


Brent Green is the author of six books about Boomers, business and aging. His newest book is Questions of the Spirit: The Quest for Understanding at a Time of Loss. Copyright 2017, Brent Green & Associates, Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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Some of us are intimately familiar with every outdated technical skill demonstrated in a new TV ad from Apple.

The spot follows an unassuming archivist working in an ancient building. Shelves bulge with film reels, photos and negatives. With a gentle gaze, the stooping man orchestrates his antique tools to bring celluloid memories alive. The final result, a short documentary film called “Together,” appears miraculously on a young mother’s iPhone somewhere else in the world. Images of her young family fly by as Lykke Li’s moving interpretation of "Unchained Melody" calls to our memories of young love, parenting, and perhaps Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze’s poignant movie, “Ghost.”

The purpose of this ad, incidentally, is to showcase Memories, Apple’s iOS 10 app for iPhone 7. The app auto-magically curates iCloud photos and videos from a time period, wedding them to music to create emotional mini-films. As if a ghost from another time, the wise, tireless archivist is always ready to help when his call light snaps on.

iPhone 7 — The Archives — Apple - YouTube

So is this one more ageist TV ad portraying negative connotations of aging? Or is this docudrama a positive depiction of aging and the special power of intergenerational connections? Please post your reaction and comments below. 

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The Woodstock Music and Art Fair has been described as a watershed, seminal, formative, game changing, and with dozens of superlatives. Those who’ve attempted to contain the Baby Boomer generation in a tidy sociological package have pointed at Woodstock in summary, sometimes with derision for the Bacchanalian overtones this word can represent.

Scheduled over three days on a dairy farm in New York from August 15 to 17, 1969,Woodstock means little until you place it in larger context of a society unraveling around the newest generation of young adults, a dominant and dominating cohort of malcontents. From their parents’ generation they had absorbed rich idealism for time-honored principles of social and economic justice.

From the world they were inheriting, they had discovered unbearable discontinuities and hypocrisies. From romanticized western archetypes, the first generation to grow up with television had learned to stare down orthodoxy.

Woodstock was just one major event with national impact that blasted through 1969. The final year of the tumultuous sixties included discordant Richard Milhous Nixon succeeding Lyndon Baines Johnson as 37th president of the United States. US troops stationed in Vietnam crested at 543,000.

Three hundred students stormed and occupied Harvard University’s administration building in a spellbinding demonstration of street theater. Charles Manson’s LSD-crazed cult executed actress Sharon Tate and seven others, including Tate’s unborn child. And this was all before a turbulent autumn featuring the largest peaceful protest in US history on October 15, the first Vietnam War Moratorium. And that’s not even close to half of it.

Woodstock was not merely a rock concert showcasing some of the best rock ‘n’ roll bands of the sixties. It was an interlude arriving in the context of more social and political upheaval than most Americans had witnessed. It was a chaotic but peaceful prelude to forthcoming breakdown between government and governed when combined will would end an unpopular war.

Denver gave a nod to Woodstock six weeks beforehand, from June 27 to June 29 at Mile High Stadium. A three-day concert featured forthcoming Woodstock headliners including Joe Cocker, Credence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Winter, and Jimi Hendrix.

The Mile High City also served as a major waypoint where hitchhiking and ride-sharing hippies passed through in droves on their way to a chimerical instant city plopped in the middle of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm.

I did not attend the concert although, like many of my peers, I gave the odyssey passing consideration. When “Butch” Barger asked me if I wanted to drive across country with him to upstate New York, I barely had a clue what he was talking about. Prospects for this road trip sounded interesting but indefinite.

In retrospect, I’m glad I didn’t go because mud and unsanitary conditions would not have enlivened me even at 19. I’m better suited to experiencing Woodstock cinematically from a home theater, shower and comfy bed nearby.

To become embroiled in the turmoil and idealism this festival represented did not require attendance. Political upheaval, disintegrating racial relations, burgeoning feminism, environmental degradation, and rock ‘n’ roll culture enveloped a generation, inundating us, forging strident collective mentalities.

From Alaska to Colorado to New York, young people crossed the country for peace and love in a time of rage and resentment. They wanted to do the right thing, and to them this meant standing firm against received authority. Woodstock at once represented the improbable and the possible: just three spins of the globe, three short days — an interruption of business-as-usual that persists even in this new century.

I saw remnants of Woodstock as young protesters clamored along downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall during the Democratic National Convention in August 2008, their faces lit up with passion and high purposes. I felt reassuring presence of shared citizenship in Civic Center Park in October of that same year when more than 100,000 gathered peacefully to hear words of hope from their next president, improbably an African-American man.


I saw the teenagers of Woodstock with wizened faces filling Red Rocks Amphitheater for the 40th anniversary of sixties’ super-group Jethro Tull.

I think of Woodstock-era uproar when watching media reports of roiling public protests against new health care legislation. Or in the faces of impassioned young protesters confronting the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The 48th anniversary of Woodstock is virtually meaningless if nothing meaningful survives. But when we peer through those throngs of tie-dyed t-shirts and tribal costumes into the present we see an extraordinarily different America four decades later: arguably, a better America, but nevertheless still beset by division and divisiveness.

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With nearly 10,845 Baby Boomers reaching age 65 daily during 2018, a transformative portrait of retirement travel is emerging.

Boomers view travel as fundamental to their next chapter, a time they anticipate being the most enjoyable and liberating of their lives. They have an annual travel spending power of $120 billion. The opportunities for suppliers of travel experiences have never been greater.

According to AgeWave and Merrill Lynch, Boomer retirees will celebrate over 125 billion hours of potential leisure time in 2018. 

Concerning travel, their primary goals include staying healthy (83 percent), intergenerational family connections (53 percent), “peak experiences” (48 percent), and adventure (45 percent). More than 50 percent of Boomer travelers choose a destination based on its cultural value. They seek educational enrichment with every tour decision.

Recent consumer research has disclosed other salient business facts about the future of Boomer travel:

  1. 99 percent of Boomers will take at least one leisure trip in 2018, with an average of five or more trips expected throughout the year;
  2. “Bucket List” trips are the most significant motivation for international travel;
  3. 52 percent say they would like to visit specific cities or towns;
  4. Boomers have an average of eight places they hope to visit;
  5. A laid-back and relaxing vacation is the most desired type of trip;
  6. Boomers are slightly more likely to prefer domestic travel (53 percent) to international destinations (47 percent);
  7. By the fall of 2017, less than 20 percent of Boomer trips will have been booked for 2018.

While these statistics help validate a compelling case for targeting Boomers, one significant question remains: “How can travel marketers, tour operators, and destinations take advantage of this unprecedented marketing opportunity through strategic brand development and competitive differentiation?”

In his highly acclaimed and engaging sessions, Brent Green, a travel industry veteran, presents compelling and actionable strategies to propel the travel industry to the next level of business success.

Other questions answered during Brent’s presentations include:

  1. What are the salient business facts about Boomer travel today that justify a substantial generational marketing focus by tour operators, destination managers, and travel planners?
  1. What are some of the most successful strategies and tactics employing generational marketing, and how can these insights be applied specifically to tour and travel offerings?
  1. What are the future Boomer trends and opportunities that will continue to transform travel for the next twenty years?

Client reactions to Brent's travel industry presentations:

“I can’t thank you enough for adding the fuel to our marketing planning meeting. Feedback on your presentation and material was very good, both your content and the fact that you did such a good job integrating your material with our products. It truly was a practical connection between customer insights and marketing action.”

— Steve Born, Vice President of Marketing, Globus Family of Brands

“Based on extensive and prolific attendee accolades received for the Educational Travel Consortium, the conference was an unqualified success. Brent Green’s contribution hugely facilitated this success, and helped us raise the bar for another great ETC meeting experience. His wonderful encore performance at ETC … received a 4.68 rating out of a possible 5.0. Our colleagues very much enjoyed his presence. He brought an ‘A Game’ to ETC and is a consummate professional. I have very much enjoyed working with him over these past years. It has been a pleasure and honor.”

— Mara DelliPriscoli, founder of the Educational Travel Consortium

Contact Brent for more information about his transformative travel industry marketing presentations.

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