There have been many attempts to accurately define Generation X. I confess that I’m not all that qualified to add anything significant or substantive to the debate, but I don’t think many will argue with the notion that we are a TV generation. From an entertainment perspective, we had our own golden age of Saturday morning cartoons, we were the first generation to grow up watching Sesame Street, and we witnessed the (unfortunate) birth of MTV.
We also lived in a time of profound scientific advance and geopolitical drama, and TV was there to bring it to us. From the comfort of our homes, we watched the assassination attempt on Reagan, the first launch of the space shuttle, the massacre at Tianenmen Square, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Regarding the latter, I can remember watching footage of Russian citizens lying down in front of Soviet tanks in protest of the government — so brave and desperate in their cries for freedom. As I matriculated through high school, I always had the angst-ridden feeling that the strained relationship between the US and the USSR could crumble at any moment and thrust us headlong into nuclear holocaust. So I watched the coverage of the Soviet collapse eagerly, knowing that I was witnessing something both hopeful and historic. In response to such incredible news, the anchorman gave simple voice to what I was feeling, and I have never forgotten it.
“Truly,” he said, “we live in extraordinary times.”
It was Peter Jennings who made that tidy commentary; to me, his words are emblematic of the time in which Gen-Xers were born and raised. He was the face of ABCNews since we were old enough to pay attention to it, and it was his name that we associated with the familiar theme that heralded the nightly news or a special report. We grew up having this handsome, well-spoken man report on the events of our time, day in and day out. And so, for me, his untimely passing represents something of the passing of an era — one which he rightly described as extraordinary.
My prayers and heartfelt condolences go out to his family and colleagues.
aka The MonT-SteR