By Steve Kelman

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Harvard class of ‘70: A generation at a glance

I attended my 40th (ugh!) Harvard College reunion this weekend. I am somewhat of a reunion junkie, so this one was fun, as they usually are. With each passing reunion, there is somewhat less emphasis on politics among my classmates from the hyper-political sixties. There were a surprising number of classmates who, all these years later, were clearly recognizable -- advances in health care and life styles, at least among the educated and (mostly) prosperous, are very visible on the faces of the class. According to the class survey, 58 percent of us still have one parent alive, and another 12 percent have both parents, which is interesting considering almost all parents would be in their eighties or more. However, 70 percent of the class is taking medication for high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.

We filled out the class survey -- on the Internet! -- before the reunion, and results were shared at one session. Some of the findings surprised me. Forty-five percent said their "spiritual side" was very important, 29 percent not so important. Approximately 9 percent said they engage "in sexual activity with another person" more than 11 times a month, about 25 percent zero times a month. Twenty-two percent reported that in the past 5 years they and/or their partner had had a life-threatening illness. 73 percent reported they had dyed their hair in the last 5 years. 36 percent said Jon Stewart was their favorite "newsperson" (this among a crowd of 60-somethings), while 15 percent named the deceased Walter Cronkite.

In the non-surprising category (at least to many): 59 percent are Democrats, 9 percent Republicans. By a margin of close to 10-to-1 (with about 20 percent of respondents undecided), they favor allowing gay marriage, an issue not around at all when we were in school. Three times as many support as oppose raising taxes -- which might not surprise some, but remember that 26 percent of the class has an annual income over $200,000 and another 46 percent between $50,000 and $200,000.

Current occupations were a bit surprising: The largest group were doctors or other health care professionals, but there were more educators (including about 10 percent of the class who are tenured university faculty) than lawyers. More than 4 percent are "Internet entrepreneurs" -- amazing for 1970 college grads -- and Wall Street didn't appear even to get a category of its own (maybe under "other professionals," or some of those calling themselves lawyers or accountants?).

Approximately 5 percent of the class is currently working in government -- which actually seems pretty high -- including such organizations as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the Transportation Department. The class also includes at least two current political appointees, David Blumenthal, the national coordinator health IT at HHS, and Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Health Affairs at HHS. I fear nothing like this percentage of current undergrads will go into government. 1.4 percent are lobbyists.

Among other options, 17 percent describe themselves as "already retired," and approximately 29 percent said they planned to retire at older than age 70 or that they "want to work 'til I drop." The last was my own answer to that question.

Posted on Oct 12, 2010 at 12:08 PM


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