Obama and the Jones Generation Takes the Lead

I'm listening to a Beatles CD as I write. I've long been a Beatles fan, but when they broke onto the scene I wasn't even in elementary school yet. By the time I got into music, at the end of the 60s, when I was finishing elementary school, the Beatles were breaking up.

I've been classified as a Boomer, but am I really? The election of Barack Obama has raised interesting generational questions. Originally classified as part of the Baby Boom Generation, he came of age long after Woodstock, Vietnam and the rest of the 60s generation. Remember all the fuss about Bill Ayres. You would of thought that Obama was part of the Weather Underground -- but he was just a kid living in Hawaii when all that was happening.

So what generation does he stem from? Since my brother is younger than Obama, I would assume that whatever answer defines him, defines me. The answer being proposed is Generation Jones -- that Generation that bridges the Boomers and GenX. We share some things in common with both, but in other ways, we're very different -- we children of the 60s and the 70s.

I noticed this link on Brian McLaren's blog. It's a link that Diana Butler Bass sent to him, and so since Diana and I are essentially the same age I figured it had something to say to me. In an essay entitled "Stuck in the Middle," sociologist Jonathan Pontell, the creator of the Jones Generation idea, sets Obama and his cohort in its proper place. He also notes that with the rise of Obama, comes the rise to leadership of this same generation. Indeed, as I look across my own congregation, there is a growing leadership cohort of this very generation.

So who are we? We are practical idealists, forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part. The name "Generation Jones" derives from a number of sources, including our historical anonymity, the "keeping up with the Joneses" competition of our populous birth years, and sensibilities coupling the mainstream with ironic cool. But above all, the name borrows from the slang term "jonesin' " that we as teens popularized to broadly convey any intense craving.

The Jones runs deep in us. It arose from our 1960s childhoods. While the Boomers were out changing the world, Jonesers were still in elementary school — wide-eyed, not tie-dyed. That intense love-peace-change-the-world zeitgeist stirred our impressionable hearts. We yearned to express our own voice. By the time we came of age and could take the stage, though, a decade of convulsions had left the nation fatigued. During the game we'd been forced to watch from the sidelines, and passage into college and careers came only after the final gun had long since sounded.

The Boomers had their opportunity, and the GenXers weren't around soon enough to bear witness. Neither was left jonesin'. But the actual children of the 1960s yearned for something more. Our unrequited idealism has bubbled beneath the surface ever since.

Obama has The Jones. It permeates his biography and his philosophy. It's a crucial piece of his identity. His message and approach reverberate with GenJones themes.

So, on behalf of my Generation, I say that we accept the baton, and maybe we'll hold on to it for just a bit, before we pass it on to the next generation.

For more, keep reading the Pontell essay here.


Anonymous said…
My fear with the Jones generation is all they really know is success. Communism fell, the stock market soared, and their homes values went up. Interest rates keep going down and jobs are always there. (this from a Gen-x'er.

Sure they got burned on the dot coms and what was left was crushed by the real estate bubble.. the question for generations from the boomers on down is "will we be willing to make the sacrifices the the WWII and the Depression generation did?" HARD sacrifices.

I REALLY REALLY pray the church steps up and fills the gap. Government is trying, but the risk of printing money because we had a bad couple of years. I fear the longer term damage we are doing to our balance sheet. The only solution is to let companies fail and let the excess supply go away.. but thats the last thing people are talking about. (ok.. I am way off subject.. sorry!)


I think you're confusing the Jones Generation with the Boomers. I graduated from College directly into a recession. We came of age in a time of high inflation, recession, rising house prices. Many folk my age couldn't buy that house that the older ones could. So, don't think that we've been let off easy. No, we didn't go to Vietnam, but we also didn't benefit from many of the opportunities that went with the earlier group.
charles & jenny said…
oops.. I may need a break down on who is who. My point was simply.. if you entered the work world from essentially 1982 onwards.. you have enjoyed almost unlimited prosperity. There was a recession in the early 1990, but that was pretty small. Since then its been up up up with no holding back. Even the "recession" of 2001 was a business recession, not a consumer one. After 18 years of up.. the system had to give. Also.. before the 80's.. no one bought stocks, so thats a pretty new idea too.


Generation Jones (if you've not read the whole piece you'll want to do so) is that group born between 1954 and 1965. I was born in 1958. During the late 70s, inflation was running around 10-15% Home mortgates were at about the same in terms of interest. Of course, if you had money in CDs you did pretty well.

I don't know what you mean by saying that before the 1980s no one bought stocks. It's probably true that people didn't buy as much, but people bought stocks. They just tended to buy safer ones -- like utilities. Dividends was the key, not growth.

But I graduated from college in 1980 and job prospects were nill. I think you need to check your history just a bit.
charles & jenny said…
Sorry Bob.. I don't mean for my post to sound attacking.. I am just trying to get a frame of reference. For instance, my dad is the front edge of the Boomers and he graduated college in 66. I figure Boomers are the next 15 years (?).

I agree, you entered the work world at a horrible time. If you were in school in the 70s, I don't count that as a learning time b/c you were working, etc. (I know, a huge liberty) But you had a rough couple years coming out, but you have to admit that at least since the mid 80s the economy has had a strong run except for the 1990 bump.

I graduated college in 1996, the years of Netscape the beginning of the internet boom. My generation absolutely has only known booms and busts and we still think we can "strike gold" with the next big investment. My point was the late nineties created the Yuppies and the age of greed.. and that too was a boom time before the 1990 recession.

As for stock ownership, sure the seventies had the nifty fifty stocks, but the IRA wasn't created til the mid 70's. It wasn't until the 80's that it became such a cultural shift. Now we are told to pour as much as we can in the market.. and the reality is.. well, I would have been better off buying a CD since I left college. It almost feels like the great lie that has been sold.

Ray said…
Your sentence beginning, "You would of thought..." should have read, You would have thought."
Ray said…
Oops, "You would have thought."

Being critical and missing a parenthesis, not good.

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