MANLINESS FROM THE GREAT GENERATION

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Sir Godfrey Gregg

I love to read and when I come across something that is inspiring I love to share and for the next few days I will share some lessons learned from a book I was reading. I thought the facts of yesteryears can be applied in our generation. These lessons can help us or assist us to meet or further our goals.

INTRODUCTION TO THE 7 LESSONS

Every generation has its share of men who fully live the art of manliness. But there may never have been a generation when the ratio of honourable men to slackers was higher than the one born between 1914 and 1929. These were the men that grew up during the Great Depression. They’re the men who went off to fight in the Big One. And they’re the men who came home from that war and built the nations of the Western world into economic powerhouses. They knew the meaning of sacrifice, both in terms of material possessions and of real blood, sweat, and tears. They were humble men who never bragged about what they had done or been through. They were loyal, patriotic, and level-headed. They were our Greatest Generation.

Tom Brokaw gave them that name, and while it’s a bold claim, I wholly support it. They weren’t made out of different stuff than we are, but they were faced with greater hardships and challenges, and successfully rose to the occasion. They weren’t perfect by any means, of course, but as a whole, they were a cut above the rest.

One of the inspirations for Kate and I starting the Art of Manliness was our grandfathers. When I looked at them, and then at the men of today, the chasm of manliness seemed jarring; they simply don’t make ’em like they used to. Their extraordinary manliness is not something you can scientifically measure. But you can sure feel it. And you can see it in old pictures. It seems every man back then was dashingly handsome; their manliness practically leaps off the page.

When I was taking a tour of the USS Slater in Albany last summer, Uncle Buzz and I were looking at the tiny, closet-sized kitchen where a couple of men prepared meals for hundreds of sailors as the ship rocked to and fro, and at the giant guns the men used to blast the enemy and knock planes from the sky. One tends to picture 30-year-old guys doing that stuff; Tom Hanks and Co. always leap to mind. But a lot of them were just 18, fresh from the prom and varsity football.

In Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, he remembers his mother telling him the story of the day Gordon Larsen came into the post office where she worked. Larsen was typically a cheerful and popular member of their community, but that day he had stopped in to complain about the rowdiness of the teenagers the night before, which had been Halloween. Brokaw’s mother was surprised at his tone and asked him good-naturedly, “Oh Gordon, what were you doing when you were seventeen?” Gordon looked at her squarely in the eye and said, “I was landing at Guadalcanal.” He then turned and left the post office. These were men who were surely mature beyond their years.

There’s a saying that each generation is most like their grandparent’s. And while we’re not there yet, I do see a lot of people these days who are dusting off the values of the Greatest Generation and embracing them once again. What were those values? Today I’d like to take an opportunity to enumerate a few of the Greatest Generation’s lessons in manliness, using some of my personal observations along with various stories and quotes are taken from Brokaw’s book.

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Author: Sir Godfrey Gregg

Sir Godfrey Gregg is one of the Administrators and managing Director of this site

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