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The Silent Generation is the demographic cohort following the cohort known in the United States as the G.I. Generation. There are no precise dates for when The Silent Generation starts or ends. Demographers and researchers typically use mid-to-late 1920s as starting birth years and early-to-mid 1940s as ending birth years for this cohort.
While there were many civil rights leaders, the "Silents" are called that because many focused on their careers rather than on activism, and people in it were largely encouraged to conform with social norms. As young adults during the McCarthy Era, many members of the Silent Generation felt it was dangerous to speak out. Time magazine coined the term "Silent Generation" in a November 5, 1951 article titled "The Younger Generation", and the term has remained ever since. The Time article said that the ambitions of this generation had shrunk, but that it had learned to make the best of bad situations. The name was originally applied to people in the United States and Canada but has been applied as well to those in Western Europe, Australia and South America. It includes most of those who fought during the Korean War. In the United States, the generation was comparatively small because the financial insecurity of the 1930s and the war in the early 1940s caused people to have fewer children. They are noted as forming the leadership of the civil rights movement as well as comprising the “silent majority”.
They have also been named the "Lucky Few" in the 2008 book The Lucky Few: Between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom, by Elwood D. Carlson PhD, the Charles B. Nam Professor in Sociology of Population at Florida State University. Carlson notes that this was the first generation in American history to be smaller than the generation that preceded them. He calls the people of this generation "The Lucky Few", because even though they were born during the Great Depression and World War II, they moved into adulthood during the relatively prosperous 1950s and early 1960s. For men who served in the Korean War, their military service was not marked by high casualties as much as the previous generation. The Lucky Few also had higher employment rates than the generations before and after them, as well as better health and earlier retirement. African Americans in this generation also did better than earlier generations in education and employment. Neil Howe, writing for Forbes, describes the Silent Generation as those born from 1925 to 1941. Pew Research Center defines the generation as being born from 1928 to 1945.
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The generation includes many political and civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, The 14th Dalai Lama, Malcolm X, Michael Dukakis, John McCain, Walter Mondale, Dick Cheney, Bernie Sanders, Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Raúl Alfonsín, Giuliano Amato, Kofi Annan, Silvio Berlusconi, Mikhail Gorbachev, B.J. Habibie, Bob Hawke, John Howard, Saddam Hussein, Ion Iliescu, Helmut Kohl, John Major, Paul Martin, Slobodan Milošević, Mahathir Mohamad, Madeleine Albright, John Lewis, Hosea Williams and Warren Christopher.
It includes such writers and artists as George Carlin, Ursula Andress, Julie Andrews, Anne Bancroft, Brigitte Bardot, John Cleese, Judi Dench, Harrison Ford, Audrey Hepburn, Janet Leigh, Sophia Loren, Shirley MacLaine, Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Joan Baez, Jane Fonda, Angela Lansbury, Mary Tyler Moore, Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Gene Wilder, Natalie Wood, Alan Arkin, Warren Beatty, Richard Burton, James Caan, James Coburn, Sean Connery, James Dean, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, James Garner, Gene Hackman, Richard Harris, Dustin Hoffman, Anthony Hopkins, Dennis Hopper, Rock Hudson, James Earl Jones, Frank Langella, Jack Lemmon, Roger Moore, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Peter O'Toole, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer, Robert Redford, Oliver Reed, Burt Reynolds, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, B.B. King, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, George Takei, Adam West, Johnny Cash, Stephen Sondheim, James Brown, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, the Everly Brothers, Marvin Gaye, Glenn Gould, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, the Beat Generation, Noam Chomsky and Richard Rorty.
Great athletes include Hank Aaron, Muhammad Ali, Roger Bannister, Ron Barassi, Richie Benaud, Yogi Berra, Jim Brown, Rubin Carter, Wilt Chamberlain, Bobby Charlton, Roy Emerson, Dawn Fraser, Reg Gasnier, Althea Gibson, Gordie Howe, Jack Kyle, John Landy, Rod Laver, Sonny Liston, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Bob Mathias, Willie Mays, Allan Moffat, Bobby Moore, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Floyd Patterson, Pelé, Pete Rose, Ken Rosewall, Garfield Sobers, Jackie Stewart, Ted Whitten, and Lev Yashin.
Depending on the dates used, the generation produced no U.S. presidents. The U.S. essentially "jumped from George Bush Sr., the World War II veteran, to Baby Boomer Bill Clinton". However, it did produce Vice Presidents Joe Biden (born 1942), Dick Cheney (born 1941) and Walter Mondale (born 1928) and First Ladies Barbara Bush (born 1925), Rosalynn Carter (born 1927), and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (born 1929). Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were born in what is sometimes considered to be the last year of the G.I. Generation (1924).
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- Handbook to Life in America, Volume 8 Rodney P. Carlisle Infobase Publishing, 2009, p. 22
- "The Younger Generation", Time, November 5, 1951
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