Yesterday was Grandparents Day and this current generation of grandparents surely were busy when they were teenagers. 50 years ago, the summer of 69 saw the culmination of one of those most iconic and turbulent decades our country has ever seen. By the time we hit that summer, peppered with a myriad of historical events, the grandparents of today had spent a decade spearheading change in the United States. From the Selma Bus Rides, to the first African American on the Supreme Court, from the loss of both JFK and RFK to the British Invasion, peaceful protests of the Vietnam war and the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, Abbie Hoffman protesting at the Stock Exchange, The Stonewall Riots and the murder of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr, the list of what transpired during the 1960’s is seemingly endless, all culminating in that final summer of 1969.
The nation and a generation of now grandparents saw the Chappaquiddick and Manson tragedies that summer. They heard President Nixon pledge to finally pull troops out of Vietnam. They watched, breathless on black and white televisions as Neil Armstrong took a “giant leap for mankind.” A genearation that saw the first sit ins take place in 1960, watched James Meredith register at Ole Miss, lived through the Freedom Summer, heard Dr. King speak about his “Dream” for America, saw the founding of the National Organization for Women and the introduction of the Civil Rights Act now saw the seeminlgy impossible- we had reached outside the boundaries of earth and touched the surface of the moon. In a summer where the moon landing occurred, could anything else be as equally culturally significant to the youth of the 1960’s?
There was one other defining moment of the Summer of 69- it took place for three days on a farm in New York. Perhaps many of the grandparents of today were there and even for those that were not, the word “Woodstock” has become over the past fifty years the definition of peace and love. From all walks of life, young adults, not much older than the ones I see in the hall each day, the one who lived through perhaps the decade that shaped our country the most, came together for three days to celebrate. What one belief united them? They wanted a peaceful world, not full of hate and violence and bias, but full of tolerance and openmindeness and love. After all, wasn’t that what they had been dreaming about for 10 years? Wasn’t that what Kennedy and King told them to aspire to, encouraged them to believe in, and rallied them to take calls to action for?
Perhaps a three day rock concert was not going to change the world, but these young men and women had spent the past ten years trying to change the world for the better, and in many ways they did. ( However, after that 3 day rock concert, I think we can say music was never the same!) At Woodstock and all over the United Sates, people saw each other not as strangers, but as friends. Nobody saw color or gender or any of the labels that create a climate of hate and fear. What the 60’s generation saw when they went all the way to Woodstock was unity.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and young, one of the performers at the legendary concert perhaps captured the spirit best when they sang (in 1970)
We are stardust,
We are golden.
for indeed we are; every one of us. Filled with light and joy, happiness and love, if only we are willing to let down our guard and shine as brightly as God intended. The over 500 thousand people at Yasgur’s Farm shone brightly those three days and truly embraced the ideals of peace, tolerance and above all love for our fellow man.
The children of yesterday, the grandparents of today had the strongest message of peace our country has ever seen. For fifty years now, they have lived by those beliefs, have raised children and grandchildren to embrace those ideals and have worked tirelessly to create a better world.
They did NOT do that so a new generation could dismantle it with hate and intolerance and harassment and anger. We ALL, you and I both, need to take a lesson for our Woodstock Generation now, before they fade too far into memory and their ideals become not something to embrace and celebrate, but a one liner for the history books. Their generation created for us, all of us, a world that tried to foster equality and love. Let us not ever ever lose sight of that. The “Flower Children” and indeed all children of the 1960’s created for American a beautiful and peaceful garden in which we were invited to reside. So today, I encourage us as adults and our teenage generation to, as Crosby Stills, Nash and Young tell us “ get ourselves back to the garden”. It’s simple really, all we need to do is follow the path that was started for us by a beautiful and historic generation 50 years ago.