Twelve years ago I took a leave of absence from PEOPLE to write a book about a generation of Americans called the baby boomers. What was so striking about them then was their sense of their own mission in life, their specialness. They were a generation of amazing promise—the biggest, richest and best educated ever in America—and their aspirations were boundless. But when the affluence of their parents proved impossible to sustain, the boomers' sense of purpose was the first casualty. The disillusionment was made all the more shattering by the force of their original belief and hope. By 1980, the generation that had everything seemed to have lost its leaders and its future.
That same year, 1980, 34-year-old Bill Clinton suffered an election defeat of his own—but two years later reclaimed the Arkansas governorship and began his long march to the White House. That he and Hillary Clinton are two of our 25 Most Intriguing People of 1992 is one sign that, more than being the Year of the Woman, this is the Year of the Baby Boomer. There are 13 other baby boomers on our list of Intriguers this year, a wonderfully disparate group ranging from the bad (Madonna
) and the beautiful (Sharon Stone) to the brilliant (scientist George Smoot) and the bubbly (Katie Couric).
At PEOPLE we look forward to chronicling the exploits of these intriguing boomers and others as they lead us into the next century. In one sense, though, their future is still in the grip of the past, just as the secret of the oak is folded within the acorn. Baby boomers are forever bound by the unique events they've shared: JFK, Vietnam and Watergate. Their challenge is to reclaim a common purpose with both their parents and their children. Perhaps then the older, World War II generation can let go, finding in this Year of the Baby Boomer not a rejection of their values but rather the fruition of the love and hope they had invested in this generation from the start.
The Clintons seem to understand this instinctively. Interviewed this month by PEOPLE, Hillary Clinton spoke of the challenges of the future "not just as a lonely struggle by each individual but as a joint effort.... That requires people to have a common purpose and to value each other across racial and gender and ethnic lines. That's part of what Bill is going to try to bring about." If so, maybe the baby boomers' hopes will at last be realized.
This year-end double issue was created by a core staff of 12—10 of them baby boomers—led by assistant managing editor Carol Wallace. Helping her were senior writer Mary H.J. Farrell, deputy art director Hillie Pitzer and her associates Phil Simone and Alan Bintliff Sr., associate picture editor Maddy Miller and her associates Tom Mattie and Teri Rueb, chief of reporters for special projects Denise Lynch and reporter Lisa Greissinger, chief copy editor Patricia Kornberg and operations coordinator Ellen Shapiro.
We cannot close this year without telling you about Peter Klein. This spirited young man joined our technology staff in 1991. He helped us set up computer systems and later cajoled—and consoled—those of us far less able to comprehend them. On Dec. 6, Peter died after courageously battling a long illness. We shall miss him.