Millennials. Baby Boomers. Gen-Xers. The Greatest Generation. Each designation conjures up ideas and preconceptions about the Americans born during those eras. But what of the Gifted Generation? That designation may be less familiar. It refers to Americans born in the years following World War II. They are the earliest -- and historian David Goldfield would say, the most fortunate -- group of Baby Boomers.
In his book, The Gifted Generation, Dr. Goldfield portrays this post-war era as a kind of golden age when the federal government took on a progressive, activist role to create the conditions in which people, even those from modest backgrounds, could succeed in ways their parents might not have imagined. His book details how this happened under the leadership of three visionary presidents, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson. These men often embraced ideas that went against their own parties and that were sometimes at odds with prevailing public opinion. But their actions expanded opportunities for an ever-larger number of Americans.
David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the lead author of the textbook, The American Journey and the author of several works on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War; Black, White and Southern.