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‘The Boomer List’: A Game-Changing Generation

A new documentary by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, exhibit and book

  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    The Boomer Generation

    En español | Say what you will about boomers and their constant navel-gazing, but there’s no mistaking the power of their influence on American culture. “So much about how we live today is a product of this generation,” says filmmaker-photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, who gets into the hearts and minds of some of the generation’s key players in a new PBS American Masters documentary, The Boomer List. Greenfield-Sanders, who has chronicled the contributions of noted Americans in The Black List, The Latino List and The Out List, turns his camera on 19 personalities — one born each year of the baby boom, from 1946 to 1964.

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1946: Tim O’Brien

    Vietnam vet, author “There’s this mistaken notion that wars end, but they don’t end. You have to do something with the horror. The object in my writing is to try to salvage something from it — something in the human spirit that can prevail."

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1947: Deepak Chopra

     New Age guru “I question every presumption we have about human potential. Do we have to age like everybody else? I don’t believe so. I think our biological age and our spiritual age are different things.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1948: Samuel L. Jackson

    Actor “My whole upbringing was black — my friends, my teachers. Everything I’ve gone through informs my opinions because I am a child of segregation. I lived through it. I lived in it. I was of it.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1949: Billy Joel

    Singer-songwriter “When I was 18, I worked on an oyster boat. I was freezing. My hands hurt. I’d look up and see this big house on a hill. ‘Bastards. They probably never worked a day in their life,’ [I thought]. Now I own that house. I am that guy.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1950: Steve Wozniak

    Apple Computer cofounder “Young people starting companies [in Silicon Valley] was unheard of back then. We had no savings accounts, no friends who could loan us money. But we had ideas. And I wanted all my life to be part of a revolution."

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1951: Tommy Hilfiger

    Fashion designer “I came from a family with nine children. I delivered newspapers to make money; peering in the windows, I was shocked to find that certain people had swimming pools in their backyards. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I want to live like that.’ ”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1952: Amy Tan

    Author “I used to think that I didn’t have dates because I was ugly, and I was ugly because I was Chinese. But it was good, because I grew up also thinking I could never rely on my looks as a way to get ahead in the world.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1953: Eve Ensler

    Playwright “I didn’t see myself as a young feminist. So much of my childhood was about surviving violence. In that sense, sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll couldn’t have come at a better time — because all of those things were a way out of this body, out of feeling."

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1954: Julieanna Richardson

    Historian “The only things we studied [in school] about black people were George Washington Carver — and slavery. I needed to know we had a history that was profound.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1955: Maria Shriver

    Journalist “Kids used to say, ‘I don’t really want to come over to your house because your mother is going to make me volunteer, and we’re going to have to live on an Indian reservation or go to Africa.’ ”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1956: Kim Cattrall

    Actor “In the ’70s, in a very healthy way, sex was integrated into our lives. Then [with the AIDS epidemic] sex became a negative. Sex and the City was instrumental in breaking that free. ‘Yes, oh, we forgot about that thing. Oh, right, OK.’ ”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1957: Virginia Rometty

    CEO of IBM “One of the most important things for any leader is to never let anyone else define who you are. I never think of myself as a woman CEO of this company. I think of myself as a steward of a great institution.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1958: Ellen Ochoa

    Johnson Space Center director “I got the top grade in every physics class I was in. And initially, some of my professors seemed very surprised by that. ‘Why shouldn’t it be me?’ [I thought]. ‘You don’t have to act quite so surprised.’ ” 

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1959: Ronnie Lott

    Athlete “The magic of sport is that you find yourself belonging. And you find yourself nurturing and wanting to serve and help a human being to the point where they say, ‘I can. I can do that. I can be that.’ ”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1960: Erin Brockovich

    Environmentalist “Destroying the environment, deceiving people, jeopardizing their health and their welfare is absolutely wrong. And if you wanna corner them, you’re gonna corner me. And I come out swingin’.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1961: Peter Staley

    AIDS activist “We guilt-tripped the entire country about letting us die. Within three years of ACT UP being
     founded, the NIH research budget tripled. That’s how quickly we shifted things.”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1962: Rosie O’Donnell

    Entertainer “So when I knew I was gay, which for me was when I was 16 or 17, I knew I was gay. I would drive around in my car with the windows rolled up, saying out loud, ‘I am gay. I’m a gay person.’ I just wanted to get used to saying it."

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1963: David LaChapelle

    Artist “I met Andy Warhol at this club. He said, ‘Well, come by and show me your photographs.’ I remember him looking at the photographs of my naked high-school friends, and he said, ‘These are great. These are great.’ ”

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  • Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

    1964: John Leguizamo

    Actor “I knew that Latin people were really funny and had incredible stories to tell. But where is that on TV, in movies, in plays? I mean, we’re f-----g funny and interesting. Why isn’t that happening?”

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AARP Boomers at 50 Plus

Rosie O'Donnell excerpt from 'The Boomer List'

The American Masters documentary by filmmaker-photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders interviews 19 iconic baby boomers that defined a generation. Go to aarp.org/boomers to watch the full episode.

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