They were the Greatest Generation because:
Economics pressed them into persistently working HARD in an ethnic melting pot from which they prayed, in disparate languages, that all the neighborhood's kids would inherit a better life.
They were luckily born into a land of untapped physical and human resources, where they humbly learned hand and mind skills that built and grew things, far removed from ostentatious penthouses where specious financial gimmicks were patented recently.
They quietly bore more than calluses, as they served in large numbers at home and abroad to build a safer, saner world for loved ones.
The country had wheelchair leadership that did not roll backwards from financially empowered oligarchs and corporate states. Instead, FDR sent armies of willing Americans to defeat both.
Today, we have untapped resources in a depressing economy that demands persistent hard work. Will Americans push our leadership to send the right and BIG enough armies against today's similar challenges and, in the process, build a 21st century Greatest Generation?
The 21st century does not need a gigantic military corps and continuous wars to test a generation's mettle. It needs a robust, voluntary American World Service Corps (AWSC) that helps address our economic needs, taps into our underutilized human and overburdened physical resources, builds a healthier world, and reflects our leadership's readiness to go BIG.
One who experienced the Greatest Generation, war veteran John Kennedy, envisioned the Peace Corps quickly growing to 100,000. He knew how essential a robust corps of peacefully serving volunteers is to augmenting our military via building generations of peace. (Think here of dramatically reducing or eradicating warring in Viet Nam, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia... had JFK's robust Peace Corps been built). JFK stressed the Peace Corps would be significant when it hit one million. Unfortunately, only about 180,000 have actually SERVED since the Peace Corps birthing in 1961. Consequently, too many unaware and easily scared people reflexively think the answer to world problems is to expand military involvements and enhance corporations that profit from such, while hunger, poverty, and weapons of mass destruction spread among a world approaching 7 billion,
Senator Ted Kennedy's much needed and praise worthy Serve America Act (SAA) is trying to revive his brother's vision, but it only calls for the Peace Corps to grow over the years to the 15,000 PCVs size it was in the late 1960's. And as the SAA is drafted, it must continue fighting for budgeting needs over this and future administrations, which has historically contributed to the demise of a strong Peace Corps and VISTA.