For years I have watched the news magazine program 60 minutes every Sunday, usually alongside my family. Something traditional we have always done as a sort of simple immediate family occurrence to end the weekend and start the fresh work/school week together.
This past weekend the iconic Andy Rooney sang his swan song after spending time with us in our living rooms for over 40 years. He launched his writing career in 1942, reporting for the U.S. Army newspaper Stars and Stripes.
During this time, his personal history gained experiences such as being one of six correspondents who flew on the first American bombing raid over Germany during WWII, and being one of the very first journalists to visit a Nazi Concentration Camp – an experience that forever changed his mind-set on the validity of war. He began writing for CBS in 1964 and then joined the 60 minutes desk in 1978. This last Sunday he offered us his final tidbit of curmudgeonly wisdom one last time with his “Few minutes with Andy Rooney” segment.
Realizing that his sense of experience and awareness is his draw, Mr. Rooney struck an unexpected chord with me. Andy Rooney is a wonderful example of how diversity of thought and, more specifically, generational inclusion has incredible value not only historically and socially, but also creatively and economically. Even his colleagues, such as Morley Safer (who will see his 80th birthday this coming November), exemplify the strength behind utilizing both the Boomer and Silent Generations.
Mr. Rooney is retiring at the age of 92, although according to him, “writers never retire”. He also wants to be very clear that he never considered himself a television personality, but rather a writer that reads what he writes.
60 Minutes is the most successful broadcast in U.S. television history based strictly on ratings. The program secured classic TV ranks after being the top-rated program for five of its seasons, joining suite with equally historic hits All in the Family and The Cosby Show. This achievement has been surpassed only by the goliath that is American Idol. However, 60 Minutes was a top ten show for 23 seasons in a row (1977–2000), a title they still hold today.
Viewers are tuning in expressly for an experienced generational opinion – another example of how cross generational conglomeration provides exciting and out of the box experiences for an audience or clients.
As we live in a society of the “here and now”, we often classify people very quickly when it comes to age. The toxic stereotyping of “younger equals ‘naïve’, while older means ‘out of touch’” is harmful to the emotional work environment, as well as the organization as a whole.
Human beings are living longer, healthier lives. With the global economic dive that we are still recovering from, many people must continue working well past their anticipated retirement age. However, this naturally imposed work-life diversity should be recognized as the privilege it is. We must consistently embrace the gift of generational diversity. It is with the inclusion of any demographic and co-operative ideas that our organization’s potential can be continuously elevated. To reject any idea purely based on its origin is a disservice to yourself, your business, and quite frankly an emotional assault on the courageous thinker.
Andy Rooney is most certainly that: a courageous thinker. Despite the fact that he has offered more than a few opinions that raised an even larger number of eyebrows, 60 Minutes would not have been then nor will be in the future the same without his presence.
We must be, and fill our lives with, courageous thinkers. Our personal histories will always play into the decisions we make and the ideas we create. Including people whose personal histories are unequivocally more experienced and rich in navigating those decisions and creations can only be considered a wise option.
“I believe if all the truth were known about everything in the world, it would be a better place to live.”