Glenn’s essay from 2001: “The Greatest American Generation”

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Today, the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, is the first time the day has fallen on a Tuesday since the tragic event took place in 2001. The anniversary of 9/11 is an important day in the lives of almost every American citizen – one that changed more than likely changed their worldview forever.

Glenn recalled the feeling he and so many other Americans had that Tuesday and the days that followed of wanting to do something to help.

“We just wanted something to do,” he told listeners. “I remember saying and challenging the president at the time, tell us what to do, sir. Tell us. In World War II people would go and they would gather scrap metal. Tell us what we need to do and we will do it. They never did. They told us to go shopping. That’s not what the greatest American generation does. That’s not what the greatest American generation did. They didn’t go shopping. They put their back into it.”

Shortly after September 11th, Glenn recorded an essay on the greatest American generation. Before playing it, he asked listeners to remember where they were that day eleven years ago.

“Who were you?” Glenn asked. “What did you believe? What did you think was important? And then what did you wake up to when you heard about the World Trade Center? If you are who I think you are, and I mean this with Democrats, with Republicans – I mean this all across America – if you are who I think you are, you said, “We’re in trouble. We could lose freedom.” Now, have we gotten better on freedom or worse on freedom? And who’s the enemy?”

Glenn discussed the freedoms Americans are giving up and the broad power they are giving to the government in the name of safety. He noted how we now have drones flying over our cities, the Department of Agriculture has its own SWAT team, the President of the United States is about to put through another executive order regulating the internet, and has already put one through that allows him to scoop American citizens off the street without a warrant or a trial. Glenn pointed out that in Utah the NSA has a storage facility for data holding all of their phone calls, emails, and electronic surveillance that is five times the size of the capital complex in Washington, D.C.

How did we get here?

Glenn explained that we got here because we bought into the lie that our patriotic duty is to go shopping – it’s not.

“Today was the day that we changed. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day we knew who we really were,” Glenn told listeners. “We were good and decent to one another. We helped one another. We cared. When somebody said, “Hey, how are you,” we wanted to know the answer.”

Eleven years ago Glenn wrote an essay called “The Greatest American Generation.” Before playing the audio of him reading over a decade ago he wanted to know this: Do you still believe the things that he wrote in this essay?

“I’ve always believed that the greatest American generation is the one that’s living, in the here and the now. The question is not if this is the greatest American generation. The question was when were we going to wake up? I remember staying at my grandparents’ house in the summer when I was small. Every morning my grandmother would open the attic door and call up, “Kids, time to wake up.” For me she’d have to do this a couple of times before I’d lumber out of bed and cross the cold, squeaky wooden floor. But finally, I would. And she’d be there in the kitchen ready with breakfast. My grandfather was already outside in the henhouse because there was work to do. They were hardworking, good and decent people. Seemed to me that they were from not only a different time but a different place. They weren’t. The spirit of our parents and our grandparents isn’t from some foreign place. It hasn’t died out. It’s a flame that flickers in all Americans. It’s there and it’s ready to blaze to life when we’re ready to face the challenges that now lie at our feet. It’s what sets us apart. It’s what built this country. It’s why our borders still teem with the poor and the tired and those yearning to be free, burned with zeal in the hearts of millions of immigrants from every corner of the Earth who came here in search of a better way of life. The flame that Lady Liberty holds is the American spirit which burns deep within all of us, no matter what our race, gender, our religious background. And today the world is watching us. It’s really nothing new. It always has. Since the dawn of man people dreamt of a better life, dreamt of a better way, of freedom. But it was Americans that finally found a way to build it. And out of all that we’ve built, the powerful machines, the computers, the weapons of mass destruction, hardware and software that we spent millions on every year to protect and keep the plan secret, our biggest seeming secret, the one the world wants most of all, isn’t a secret at all. It’s something we freely give to the rest of the world. And while it seems self‑evident to us, for some reason it can’t be duplicated. Yet it can be passed on from person to person, torch to torch. It’s the American spirit.

If you weren’t trapped in one of those towers or on a plane or in the Pentagon, then you have great reason to humbly give thanks today, not for our lives but because we’re the lucky ones. God hasn’t forsaken us. He’s awakened us. Standing at the bottom of the stairs, he’s gently called out, “Kids, it’s time to wake up! We’ve been given another chance.”

Thousands of years ago in Babel, the great civilization in their arrogance built a tower that reached the sky. It crumbled and they were scattered. Our heart and steely symbols of power and wealth may have crumbled, but we have not been scattered. Americans aren’t ever going to scatter. Let the world recognize through our actions today that those firefighters in New York are not the exception. They are the rule. Americans don’t run from burning buildings. We run into them. It was a beautiful fall morning on the edge of the land created through divine providence. Coffee shops were open. Children were on their buses and people easing into another typical workday when America’s greatest generation heard the voice: “Kids, it’s time to wake up.”

Several times we’ve ignored the voice. We’ve drifted back into twilight sleep muttering, “I know, I know, in a minute.” But finally we are awake and out of bed, for there is much work to do. The task before us is much more daunting than what our grandparents and parents faced, but we are stronger, a more prepared nation. The torch has been passed. We are the greatest American generation. The American spirit is alive and well. Our flame has not burned out. It had just been dimmed while we were asleep.”

  • snowleopard (cat folk gallery)

    On Sept 11 our entire world changed direction forever as a nation; we suddenly found ourselves at war with an unknown enemy who hit us in a way that most would have considered impossible to have occured.

    Eleven years ago 3000 of our fellow citizens and soldiers perished in the fall of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon strike, and in the field where the fourth plane came down. It was a day America changed forever, a portion of each one of us who witnessed it, live or on TV or via radio or other media sources, will always remember.

    It was a day of heros being made, showing what in the core all of us are truly capable of being; when we have our backs to the wall, the exceptional courage of our people become the normal to all: the police and firefighters who did not hesitate to ascend the towers to rescue people, those who were the last to leave after ensuring all their employees left and they never made it out; the people who rushed to retake the cockpit of one plane, the last known words ‘Lets Roll” cried out and the struggle commenced.

    These people put their lives ahead of all others to save theri fellow Americans; and yet we have more heros forged from the outcome of that day as well: All who have fallen in service to this country against the war on terrorism around the world, they gave all for us.

    It is for all of them, those who have fallen on that day or in service to defend our nation since then that we, the living who seen it happen, bear the charge to never forget and to ensure generations to come understand the horror of that day, and of the true exceptionalism of America rising to the challenge.

    We have met the enemy from without and taken hold of them in their den and beat them; now we have to ensure the enemies at home do not do the same to us who seek only to be free for a better tommorow made with our hands.

    May God be with all of us in the time to come; here at home and abroad.

    Glenn claims the generation of 2001 as the greatest there is; if so then it is having learned their lessons of greatness and exceptionality from the people whose lives changed that day. For on that day; our nation became great in one whole moment of time before the world; the time where we all became “America in her finest hour.”

    • Deborah Lambert

      “The Greatest American Generation.” Before playing the audio of him reading over a decade ago he wanted to know this: Do you still believe the things that he wrote in this essay?

      • Joni Biddle LeBlanc

        Yes, I do believe in those things he said. He is surely a great American

  • SRLL

    I was 12 years old. On September 10, 2001 I was a little girl living in a small boring town. My world was my family and my small town and I hated it. There was never anything exciting and everyone knew everything about each other. I was innocent and unafraid.

    On September 11, 2001 I was in school. Suddenly kids were leaving… Their parents were pulling them out. I didn’t know what was going on until I entered my next class, American History with Mr. Sherry. We all loved Mr. Sherry with his big dumbo ears and his great sense of humor. This day was different though, he looked frightened. We all sat down asking each other what is going on?! Mr. Sherry began to speak and you have never seen an 8th grade class quiet so quickly. His words “Against the advice of our principal I am going to turn on the news. This is your American history class and this day will forever be remembered. It will be written in your children’s textbooks. I want you to never forget this day. I want you to always remember that our history is real.” I didn’t understand till he turned on the news. I saw the plane fly into the second tower. I kept thinking this can’t be New York… This is in some other country, right? Then I thought of all the planes I see over my small town every day. I was scared. I now understood what he meant by “our history is real” All this time we have been reading it and learning it like a story, but its not a story… its real pain and struggle. It is frightening. I wanted to go home and be with my family. I felt safe in my small town… relieved that we are just a spec on the map.

    I think one of the biggest differences was returning to school. Those morning announcements… That Pledge of Allegiance we all said every morning during the announcements. It was the first time myself and probably many other really felt the words.

    That day changed us all. Young and old. We are stronger.

    • Rahm Kota

      My story was similar to yours I was fourteen at the time this happen. I remember everything from that day. After the first attack they told us a plane hit the twin towers over the pa everything in that school stopped and teachers turned on the TVs in their rooms as my math teacher did. Watching smoke coming out of one of the towers my first thought was that this had to be some sort of freak accident but when the other plane hit I knew then cowards attacked our country. The one thing of that day that will stick with me is seeing little black objects falling around the buildings later finding out they were people jumping to their deaths. We must never forget this day I know I never will. The day after things was different. I was bullied in school but after that happen I was left alone for a year because everyone of us in our school saw the second plane hit watch the two towers fell. Every time this day comes around I cry remembering that day.


    Pamela Clark
    I will never forget.
    September 11th scootiemusic.tripod.comLike · · Share · 6 hours ago ·

    Yitsel Valdebenito likes this.Inez Helen Berg Clark PLEASE SEE, THIS WAS WRITTEN BY MY DAUGHTER & SINGS IT. 2001.3 hours ago · LikeInez Helen Berg Clark PRESS
    (TODAY)..THANKS PAM’S MOM & HER DAD..CURUNDU PTY3 hours ago · LikeWrite a comment…

  • Rahm Kota

    I saw this great tribute.

  • Carrie LaGrone

    I listened to Glenn and heard that essay 11 years ago. It brought tears to my eyes then as it does now but for different reasons. I believed then, that we as Americans had changed…that our eyes were finally open and our heads were no longer buried in the sand. As scared as I was, I had hope. But now,11 years later…after seeing how fast we as Americans forgot even though we still vow to this day to never forget, I’m sad to say that I no longer believe. Right after the attacks on our country you couldn’t find a single American flag on the store shelves….they were all sold out and attached to houses all over this country, flying proudly. Members of Congress on both sides of the isle put there differences aside and sang “God bless America” on the steps of the Capital. People gave blood at blood banks and prayed at church and in their homes again. We started looking out for our neigbors again and holding our children a little bit tighter. Fast forward 11 years….. as you drive down the streets of your neigborhood, your lucky if you see one or two American flags flying from your neigbors houses. Blood banks and churches are no longer full like they were those weeks and months after 9/11. God has once again been removed from the big picture. Heads have been buried in the sand once again and eyes are tightly shut. Our politicians fight and point fingers and make this country more divided and more corupt then it’s been in a long time. We no longer look out for our neigbors…we are too busy looking for our freedoms that are slowly but surely being taken away from us. We are worse off then we were 11 years ago……11 years ago we had no idea what was coming or that what was coming was even possible. We were so naive. Today….we DO know what is possible for we have seen with our own eyes and naivety is no longer a valid excuse. Enemy lines have become blurred and not only are we fighting enemies on foreign soils but here in our own country as well…..Wolves dressed in sheeps clothing, threatening our freedoms and our prosperity. I hope and pray that we as AMERICANS awaken from our slumber before it’s too late and going back becomes impossible

  • Anonymous

    My Dad is a member of the Greatest Generation, he fought in Korea and has passed away, but if he were alive today he would be very vocal in calling Obama exactly what he is a COMMUNIST

  • jdog

    Thank God the savages who committed that awful deed are dead or on the run. Look at the sad life Bin Laden was living – like a hermit. Surely they and their cowardly ilk have learned the foolishness of trying to attack the U.S.

    We must also, however take care not to give too much leeway to those wanting to “protect” us. Drones and electronic mail have ushered us into an entire new generation of threats to our liberties. New generations, new technology, new threats. Stay vigilant. Fight for your freedoms.

  • Anonymous

    What a beautiful piece Mr. Beck. I cried with you today as I listened to your words. This is what our President should have said to us that day eleven years ago. We are awake now. Thank you.

    • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Like Mr. Beck, I was born in 1964 to a rural farming family. I remember my grandmother tilling the ground, canning food and churning butter. Her hands were always busy from morning to night. Evenings were spent shucking corn on the front porch of her modest farm home. We talked to one another instead of burying our heads in the TV. Neighbors were always just a shout away and treated one another as family. We were poor as Job’s Turkey, but we didn’t know it. We were free and that made us feel rich!
    I still remember every lesson my grandmother taught me as if it were yesterday. I will never forget and I still try to live my life in such a way as to make her proud.
    Americans have lost their way because life is so busy and there are so many technical gadgets to waste our precious time today. We have been told that celebrity is key and we follow their every move because we bought the lie that our own lives are devoid of promise and importance. Get thee out of the city and find a small piece of land of your own. Make it rich!

  • Anonymous

    This is a day I will never forget. Husband and I were visiting son in MN for grandson’s 3rd birthday. Son came into room where we were and turned on TV. We watched, shocked and horrified. I am reminded of 9-ll-01 every day. Live near 3 airports and whenever a plane is heard or seen, I say a pray for our nation, hoping it will honor those who died that day. I never forget what happened on that date.

  • greywolfrs

    I remember this day, like it was yesterday. I was a sleep after working a graveyard shift and the phone kept ringing. It rang more times than I could count. I tried to act as if it wasn’t ringing. Finally, my wife answered it. It was my mother-in-law, she said turn on the TV. My wife did and we saw the second plane hit. I wish I could say I was sad, but I wasn’t. I wish I could say I was horrified, but I wasn’t. I was beyond angry, I was so mad I could spit nails. In that moment. I simply wanted our armed forces to start carpet bombing and not stop…
    Maybe that was not exactly the proper reaction, but it is the truth.

  • Anonymous

    I still believe what you wrote is possible. Society needs to stop being so star struck and focussed on me-me-me and get back to those old fashioned values the MSM lkes to poke fun of. It’s do-able. You just have to be willing to do it.
    We can coexist with the hurried race of schedules and making money and reach out to one another. Start by being willing and ready to help those who reach out to us. Many of us will continue to do so. Some of us will start to do so. Some of us will always be ready to take, but never able to give.
    What is always interestng (and quite often sad) is which group will be the dominent one, which will have the majority of participants.

  • landofaahs

    I’m kinda tired of the “greatest generation” thing. Frankly they won WW2 and that;s about the sum of the good. Let’s look at the fact that it was mainly WW1 people who were the leaders. Lets not forget that Einstein was born in 1879, more of the WW1 gang than WW2.
    Let’s look at some more examples; The WW2 generation gave us Medicaid and food stamps and the rest of LBJ’s “great society” destruction. Let’s put the icing on that cake by realizing that the so-called greatest generation raised that bunch of brats that made up the 60’s. Let’s not forget that Korean War and Vietnam war thing along the way.
    Frankly, if you want the greatest genereation, it was the American first generation made up of the founding fathers. Before the ink was dry on the constitution, Congress first gavel drop started the process of eroding our liberty and destroying the Republic.

  • Anonymous

    what happened to me on 9/11 was the opposite of what happened to you, glenn. i retreated, recoiled, withdrew…my life got darker, more analytic, less happier.

    i woke up from bliss.

  • Carol Waldrop

    Of anyone I have listened to this man is true to the bone. All of it and everything he says has happened before our eyes. He gives information from research and the heart what a great combination. I wish he were still on TV that right there should tell you something. He has a plan for how to combat what we are going through. Keep telling it like it is. A fan of yours.
    Carol from Florida

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