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Greatest Generationers don’t howl at the sky

Published November 13. 2017 01:31PM

Just in time for Veterans Day, we learned of the inspiring story last week of 93-year-old Vito Perillo, who became the mayor-elect of Tinton Falls, a town of about 18,000 in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

Upset by the way things were being run in his town, Vito put words into action by running for elected office. A hot-button local issue to him involved the borough’s police department that cost the town a reported $1.1 million.

In an interview, Vito said he was a fighter all his life. A young teenager during the Great Depression, he shined shoes on street corners in the Bronx just to help the family put food on the table. During World War II, he went into the military to fight for this nation’s freedoms, shutting down his ambition to become a pro boxer.

Campaigning for this election, he reportedly wore out two pairs of shoes by going door-to-door. Just before the polls opened last Tuesday, Vito posted on Facebook: “Win or Lose today, I feel so thankful for the tremendous support I have received and the lifelong connections I have made on the campaign trail with other residents of our town.”

His grass-roots effort paid off. He beat the incumbent, a man 30 years his junior, by winning 53 percent of the vote.

“Tonight transparency, accountability and community empowerment won out,” he posted after the victory, “and I can’t wait to get started working as hard as I can for all of the great residents of this town!”

Vito’s great perseverance and focus does not surprise us. Americans who made up the Greatest Generation — those who endured the Great Depression and World War II — had to be overcomers.

Jimmy Carter, who rose to the very top in elected office and served as our 39th president, is another example of that generation. In 2015, Carter overcame radiation treatment for several melanoma spots on his brain and liver, and today, at 92, he still remains active in his favorite charity, Habitat for Humanity.

This past summer, he was using a handsaw to cut wood for a staircase at a construction site near Winnipeg, Canada. After working in the hot sun for an hour, Carter collapsed from exhaustion and was treated for dehydration at a hospital. Well-wishers included former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara Bush, also members of our Greatest Generation.

Following World War II, the generational progression led to the baby boomers, followed by Generation Xers (born 1965-84) and Millennials (born 1982-2004). Generationally speaking, we’ve noticed quite a drop-off in individual focus to overcome hardship and national unity.

Spurred to action by Facebook, a number of opponents to President Donald Trump came together around the country last week to show their rage on the one-year anniversary of his stunning election night victory in 2016. The anti-Trumpers were gathered to let out a “primal scream over the current state of our democracy.”

In the scenes we observed, they looked not only comical but deranged and pitiful. After hearing some of the screamers interviewed, it was evident some on the far left are still suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and finding it impossible to cope with the 2016 election night upset.

New York organizer Nathan Wahl stated that “we’re a bunch of exasperated people who want to feel connected.”

Being connected was something the World War II generation perfected in order to win a world war on separate fronts 72 years ago. Morale and the bonds of patriotism were never stronger than when Americans united to defeat Nazism in Europe and Japanese expansionism in the Pacific.

Those Greatest Generationists, who would become baby boomer parents, fought for the rights and freedoms that our Generation Xers and Millennials enjoy today.

It’s insane, however, to throw a political tantrum by howling or screaming into the night sky. Why not use all that pent-up energy and effort to run for office, like 93-year-old mayor-elect Vito Perillo, or volunteer to help other Americans, like 92-year-old President Carter with Habitat for Humanity?

By Jim Zbick | tneditor@tnonline.com

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