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Baby Boomer Icons via Boomerpdx

Joe Namath via

Joe Namath

We all want the game-changer on our team, the person who hits the homer, wins the race, the one who makes a difference.

Any list is full of the greats and near greats and it’s hard to go wrong.

But what about those whose labors created the foundation of the future, whose work reveals the sort of unexpected vision that guides the future?

The following list includes Baby Boomer icons from the Sixties, personalities who continue to light the way decades later.

Who would you add? 

1. JFK

Every boomer is older than JFK. We see the hair, the teeth, the wife, and wonder if living fast and dying young is the best way to eternal remembrance.

It’s not unless you were the president who faced down the Cuban Missile Crises, Bay of Pigs, and promised to send a man to the moon before the decade was out.

If you graduated from college, got a job, married and had kids, you’re icon enough for boomerpdx.

2. RFK

Bobby captured a generation with, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

It was a time of dreams.

Why not? Why not the freedom to choose? Why not the will to persevere? Why not the strength to overcome?

If you read and understand Hillel the Elder’s words, “If not now, when? If not us, who,” and think of Robert Kennedy, then you’re doing boomer good.

3. MLK

The man had a dream, an American dream as big as the country from coast to coast. He spoke for a nation unwilling to speak for itself.

In a voice trained in church, he brought the gospel of freedom to an audience yearning to shake unknown shackles. Small town white America walked down the street, bought a soda, and drank water from a public fountain without a thought to right or wrong.

Martin Luther King, Jr. shed light on those unwelcomed on the same sidewalk, cafe, or drinking fountain. He spoke for one America while another America pretended not to hear.

His words still echo.

4. Richard Nixon

Hat’s off to the old Trickster for doing what no one before him could have accomplished. It took an old Red-baiter to open China.

No lefty could have made the trip to China without harsh questions about their patriotism. Only Nixon could do it and make it look normal.

No matter his place in history, or in your private hall of shame, Nixon introduced China to America at the highest levels of diplomacy. For that, if nothing else, he’s earned a place in Boomer legend.

5. Joe Namath

In the realm of world and cultural leaders, Joe earns his place by putting sports stereotypes to rest. You don’t need a crew-cut to participate in sports. Don’t need black high-top cleats. Don’t need an official handler.

Here came Broadway Joe in his fur coat, fu manchu, long hair, and white shoes. There goes Joe with the Super Bowl III trophy. He showed you can look like a flake and still play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

After Joe, every flake thought they had the right stuff to go out for the team. It made coaches’ lives harder to tell the difference, while everyone else had a little more fun.

Historical icons end up a subjective choice. One person means more to someone else based on their own experience.

Do you have a starting five? Please add them in comments.




About David Gillaspie


  1. I couldn’t refrain from commenting. Perfectly written!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Thanks for coming in and commenting. My aim is to produce perfectly written posts, but it’s harder than it looks.

      Be sure to join boomerpdx and keep up with new posts. I’ve got one just now coming up. I think you’ll like it.



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