Assessing the Class of '65

On June 30, The Times printed an article, "Script Has Changed--What Really Happened to That Golden Class of '65" (by Lynn Simross), about the 20-year reunion of the Palisades High School class of Summer, 1965. As a member of the class, I attended that reunion and found it thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating. However, I must take exception to the tone of the article and the message it attempts to convey.

As I read it, the theme of the story is that this bunch of crazy, far-out radicals has been transformed into well-dressed, suburban conformists with high-paying professional jobs. This is undoubtedly an accurate portrayal of some members of the class of '65, but what The Times fails to take into account is that the people who attend reunions are, for various reasons, a select group, representing a good deal less than half the class.

"They're so conservative," said one Palisades English teacher. "They aren't radicals anymore. They're in suits." What did she expect of a group of people who had just paid $35 a person to attend a cocktail party at the Riviera Country Club?

Mingling among the "doctors, writers, lawyers, philosophers, professors, artists, architects, financial advisers and business persons" were plenty of people who hold blue-collar and white-collar jobs. There were also numerous people who would gladly characterize themselves as radicals, activists and ecologists. I think I even saw two liberals standing in the corner.

I believe that very few members of the class would agree with their classmate who was quoted in The Times as advocating a peacetime draft. And not too many would agree with another classmate's assertion that "a lot of the anti-war thing" was motivated by "cowardice." Perhaps that is what motivated this particular fellow, but it is unfair to extend the criticism to the rest of us.

I have spent the last 12 months traveling all over the United States interviewing members of the national class of 1965 for a forthcoming book. I have talked with unemployed auto workers and multimillionaires, fundamentalist preachers and human rights activists, career military officers and draft resisters. I feel that it is unfair and incorrect to say, as one class member is quoted as saying, that "We as a generation were a disgusting bunch. We've only gradually begun to awaken to the larger realities around us. It just took us a long time to grow up." If you change his we's to I's , I think you will find a much more accurate statement.

Yes, the generation of the '60s got a lot of attention early. And yes, it made some mistakes, and did some wild and weird things. And yes, a small percentage have become stereotypical yuppies. But ours is a generation that is only half-way through life. Most generations do not really begin to enter positions of power and influence until they reach their late 40s and early 50s. For all the attention our generation has already received, the fact remains that we are still waiting our turn to really make our mark on society.

It will probably be at least another 10 years before we will be able to tell which way the class of '65 has really gone, and whether the social movements which affected us so deeply were passing fads or foundations for building a more just and peaceful world.


Santa Monica

Wallechinsky, a co-author of "What Really Happened to the Class of '65," "The People's Almanac," "The Book of Lists" and other books, is currently working on "Midterm Report: The Class of '65."

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