Emergence of the Generation Gap

“As we grew, however, our comfort was penetrated by events too troubling to dismiss. First, the permeating and victimizing fact of human degradation, symbolized by the Southern struggle against racial bigotry, compelled most of us from silence to activism. Second, the enclosing fact of the Cold War, symbolized by the presence of the bomb,brouth awareness that we ourselves, and our friends, and millions of abstract “others” we know more directly because of our common peril, might die at anytime. We might deliberately ignore,or avoid, or fail to feel all other human problems, but not these two, for these were too immediate and crushing in their impact, too challenging in the demand that we as individuals take the responsibility for encounter and resolution.” (Tom Hayden 323)


The 1960s was the first time Americans saw the generation gap that we are all too common with today. This was the first time that the ambitions and principles of a generation (the Baby Boomers) greatly differed, and even challenged, those of the previous generation. Young adults were no longer striving for the same goals as previous generation. This led to a toxic “us vs. them” mentality that has caused civil unrest since. But what caused this particular generation to become so utterly dissatisfied with American society?

Many Baby Boomers were involved with the Civil Rights Movement and anti-poverty programs and became passionate about social idealism. It became their mission to fix the apparent flaws in their society that earlier generations treated lackadaisically. Initially, this idealism focused on changing the arbitrarily rigid structure and rules of universities but transformed to protesting the Vietnam War and the draft. Student groups wanting to cement their new vision formed the “New Left” political party. The “New Left” wanted social and political changes to be determined by well-educated and younger individuals, unlike the “Old Left” that put too much power in the too few hands of capitalist groups. The Port Huron Statement was written by a “new left” student group  that called for immediate action to tackle the injustices plaguing society such as racism, poverty, corruption and the government’s abuse of power (Vietnam, the draft).  For the first time, students across the country organized and vocally expressed their outrage through demonstrations. The older generation did not understand and merely saw young adults as rebels and troublemakers for rising against the previously established social order.