The Equal Rights Amendment was one of the major causes that many boomers championed.

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Baby Boomer Characteristics

Probably more than anything else, boomers are known as social and political rabble-rousers. As author Leonard Steinhorn argues, "A better America is the true legacy of the baby boom generation." Here are just a few of the noteworthy causes associated with the baby boomer generation:

  • Civil rights: Boomers cut their teeth on civil rights in early adulthood. The nonviolent protest tactics they practiced foreshadowed the way boomers (and countless others) would approach the challenges of the future. As Time Magazine said, "[the boomers'] reformist energy surfaces in grass-roots movements aimed at curing everything from drunken driving to the arms race."
  • Antiwar demonstration (Vietnam): The antiwar movement may not have technically ended America's involvement in Vietnam; however, Vietnam was the cause that defined the baby boomer generation.
  • The Equal Rights Amendment: After pouring countless hours into the civil rights movement, the women of the baby boomer era tired of making coffee and printing pamphlets. They set out to lead their own workshops, make their own speeches and fight for their own rights. Title IX and the increasing number of career opportunities available to women stand as testament to the tireless work of the boomer generation's female leaders.

Disillusioned by the Vietnam War and the dire economic climate of the '70s, baby boomers traded revolution for recreation as the '70s came to a close. Rock 'n' roll made way for disco and the sexual revolution took hold. Dubbed the "me" and the "now" generation, the idealists of the '60s became the yuppies of the '80s. Nevertheless, the old optimism still informs the media's portrayal of the boomer generation. "Jack & Bobby," a short-lived WB television series, starred Christine Lahti as professor Grace McCallister, the quintessential baby boomer: an active, youthful, ultraliberal history professor devoted to feminism and her many other pet causes.

Even fact-driven CNN begins an article on the boomers' precarious financial situation as they reach retirement with an anecdote about aging boomers acting like youngsters "dancing wildly and waving their arms in the air to the unintelligible lyrics of 'Louie, Louie'" [source: Trickey]. Indeed, as the first baby boomers approach retirement age, the evidence suggests that they don't plan on going quietly. Read all about baby boomers retiring in the next section.