Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: John McCain came up with a clever put-down for a student who claimed the older generation can't understand the current one.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, September 2008]
Origins: The term "generation gap" was coined several decades ago to identify the concept that our world now changes so much (both technologically and socially) in the course of an ordinary human's lifetime, older folks can't possibly fully grasp or understand all the issues and challenges that confront the generation currently coming of age. (A common retort is that while other aspects of our world may change, human nature remains largely constant,
The anecdote related above plays on that concept: While a member of the younger generation whines that his elders don't understand the challenges of the modern world, one of those elders points out that the modern world was created by members of previous generations who tackled challenges
Did John McCain really say this? While it's possible he may have repeated this anecdote (or something like it) at one time or another, the narrative is not original to him: This
The president of the University of California system, Clark Kerr, symbolized the problem. By refusing to discipline student activists who were taking over buildings and obstructing classes, Kerr, in Reagan's view, had only encouraged further disruptions. The regents of the university system were displeased with Kerr, but he was lionized by the media, and they were afraid to take him on. As governor, Reagan was anLast updated: 28 September 2008
Then Reagan turned to the activists. Initially he tried to engage them in dialogue, but he soon found that they only wanted to trade barbs and insults. Reagan's quick-wittedness is apparent from records of some of those exchanges. At one campus meeting, a student told Reagan that it was impossible for people of Reagan's generation to understand young people. "You grew up in a different world," he said. "Today we have television, jet planes, space travel, nuclear energy, computers." Without missing a beat, Reagan replied, "You're right. It's true that we didn't have those things when we were young. We invented them."
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