I believe that most of us are concerned about the legacy left by the baby boomers (and after baby boomers)…global warming, pollution, the national debt, polarized politics.
But there is one legacy from my generation that I am extremely proud of.
The combination of the protest against the war in Vietnam, the “hippies” movement, civil rights, gay liberation and women’s rights inspired us to raise the national conscious to recognize that none are equal unless all are equal.
We have made tremendous strides.
In civil rights we went from a lynching in 1981 to a Black President 27 years later. Despite tremendous hurdles, African Americans are an important force in politics, professional careers, and sports. In 2019 almost 8% of the students in medical school were black.
When I was in 5th grade, I announced that I wanted to become a physicist. The entire class laughed. As one student said:
“Girls can only be housewives, teachers or nurses.”
Those barriers have been shattered. Today over 50% of medical students are female.
Women did not have access to safe abortions and birth control when I was young. Today, women have full reproductive freedom.
When I was growing up, homosexual acts were illegal. Today, gays and lesbians have the right to marry and enjoy full protection under the law.
Our society is freer and more accepting. Fifteen percent of today’s marriages are interracial. We have a Family Medical Leave Act that allows both mothers and fathers to take off from work to care for a newborn. We have eliminated barriers for the handicapped.
Asians and Indians move freely through our society. Twenty one percent of medical students are Asian.
Latinos are moving beyond manual labor jobs. Six percent of medical students are Latino.
We offer programs such as Head Start to help children raised in less than ideal conditions.
I am exceedingly proud of our legacy. We have given the next generation opportunities that women and people of color didn’t have when I was growing up.
But I am also fiercely protective of this legacy, with good reason.
The backlash is always there. Black voter suppression, the 2016 election, anti-abortion state laws, the “wall” are warnings that there are those who conspire to take back our accomplishments.
We mustn’t let them take away our legacy.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.