The surgeon who operated on the late Sen. Bob Dole’s crushed shoulder after he was injured in World War II later said of him: “This young man … he had the faith to endure.” Dole overcame his devastating battle wounds and made his way to the Senate. Dole and millions of others during his time are correctly labeled by former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw as America’s “Greatest Generation.” Their heroism is displayed through the sacrifices they made during the Great Depression and World War II to place children, family, and country above themselves.
Had members of the Greatest Generation been at today’s seats of power, the suffering and untold damage inflicted upon our nation’s children during the COVID-19 pandemic could have been minimized. Instead, today’s decision-makers are often Baby boomers, the demographic cohort born between 1946 and 1964. Baby boomers sit at the helm of American institutions, including teachers unions and governorships, giving them the ability to dictate and legislate harmful mandates. Throughout the pandemic, the boomers’ stereotypical selfish and self-indulgent tendencies were reflected in their demands that children sacrifice for the sake of adults.
Emblematic of a generation born in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II, at the core of the Baby boomers’ character is an aversion to risk. As children of parents who were the first to achieve middle-class success, Baby boomers were no longer tethered to their ancestors’ deprivations. Rather, their idealism was accommodated and indulged at educational institutions and by the preceding generation, who unlike the boomers, labored and fought for their achievements.
Today, perhaps no leader bears more responsibility for inflicting harm on children than Randi Weingarten, who was born in 1957 and is president of the American Federation of Teachers. In July 2020, Weingarten backed an AFT resolution endorsing local “safety strikes” as a tool to advocate for greater COVID mitigation in the classroom. Weingarten admitted in a radio interview that same month that “there’s no way that you’re going to have full-time school for all the kids and all the teachers the way we used to have it.” She shamelessly added, “Once there’s a vaccine, I hope we can get back to that.”
Now that there is widespread access to the vaccine, which studies show prevents serious illness but is less effective at stopping infection or transmission, Weingarten is refocusing her energy on keeping schoolchildren masked until COVID cases reach zero. Evidence suggests that forcing children to learn while covered in a soggy and contaminated piece of cloth robs them of the ability to read social and verbal cues critical to their development. Children are also not prone to getting seriously sick from COVID.
The long-term effects of COVID restrictions imposed by leaders like Weingarten are resulting in a mental health crisis among adolescents. According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control, mental health-related visits among adolescents increased 31 percent in 2020 when compared to 2019.
Weingarten’s unjust mask guidance is echoed by fellow Baby boomer New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose youngest constituents are still required to wear masks in school. Like Weingarten, Hochul is attempting to link lifting the state’s school mask mandate to increasing vaccination rates among younger students.
Baby boomers’ exploitation of children predates COVID. As young adults, boomers rallied in support of legalizing abortion. They created organizations like the National Organization for Women (1966) and the Women’s Political Caucus (1971), which fostered a shared narrative between the feminist movement and the subsequent normalization of abortion. A 2019 Pew report found that a majority of Baby boomers favor upholding Roe.
While the Baby boomers’ terrible treatment of our nation’s youth stretches back decades, history will not look kindly upon the adults whose demands during the pandemic led to children suffering the most. The Greatest Generation would be disappointed. Let’s hope Generation X has the conviction and strength necessary to lead American children out of a mess they unfairly inherited.
Irit Tratt is a writer who resides in New York. Her work has appeared in The American Spectator, The Jerusalem Post, The Algemeiner, JNS, and Israel Hayom.