The Smithsonian, Lawrence Small, and Spoiled Baby Boomers


All right, so Smithsonian head Lawrence Small has resigned under fire for his champagne lifestyle. Dude spent $31,000 for uphostlery for his office furniture, $12,000 for the upkeep of his pool, $273,000 for housekeeping services, and god-knows-what on frivolous travel and entertainment.  His annual compensation package was $915,000, which I gather was a cut in pay from his former gigs at Citicorp and Fannie Mae. 

This was the same guy whose dapper photo appeared at the beginning of the mag–dressed, no doubt, in a frivolously expensive suit. Small, supposedly, was the figurehead for American culture and art.  So every time I renewed my subscription, I was paying to help clean his house?

I think of Franklin and Elinor Roosevelt. They had more money than Small could ever dream of, yet lived simply, refused to spend a dime on remodeling the White House, and even Roosevelt’s retreat at Warm Springs was little more than a cottage. Small, who did indeed raise a billion dollars for The Smithsonian but apparently spent it just as readily, could stand to learn that sense of self-sacrifice.

But I don’t expect that he, or the thousands of other execs who are annually paid millions while 41% of Americans go without health insurance, can comprehend that kind of integrity. Spoiled Baby Boomers, they’ve somehow convinced themselves that they’re worth it, when of course nobody is. Small represents that sort of vulgar excess and greed. Where will it all lead? Where it always does: either social ruin or revolution if left unchecked.

Either way, I’ll still renew my subscription. Is that akin to Nero playing the violin? Naw, I just like the articles.

6 thoughts on “The Smithsonian, Lawrence Small, and Spoiled Baby Boomers

  1. It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? Social ruin or revolution….as they say, history wouldn’t have to keep repeating herself if we’d only listen. And perhaps revolution is how human evolution continues…. Entitlement is a position that more and more people either assume or aspire to in this here country. And I agree with you–what about entitlement to decent health care? What about entitlement to a safe and clean environment? Instead we seem to be heading more and more down a road of just taking what we want, when we want because we want….with nary a thought about anyone or anything else and that just can’t be good in the long run for the good of society as we know it, can it?

  2. Mary, that is to the point: these people who are supposed to be protecting and extending our democracy are in reality helping to erode it. But all empires sooner or later do this dance with decadence, with the usual result.

  3. what about us BBs who are just about getting by, and find that we are losing ground year after year? who live simply, try to keep ‘green’, and are taking care of our children’s children at this point? i do wish BBs would not get the blame for everything that is wrong and greedy with our culture. remember, we’re also the same people who wanted to change the world — only to be mocked, derided, beaten at demonstrations, and eventually have our dreams and ambitions strangled by the big money — and a lot of that was inherited. self-satisfied privilege is rarely acheived in one generation.

  4. Bonnie-Ann: You’re quite right actually. I generalized where I shouldn’t have, but only because it was effective in this instance.

    Overall, the Baby Boomers helped usher in changes that were far better for the world than worse–but only because the world was ready for it. The greedy ones make up a small minority; and for every one who is narrow with their view of wealth, many others are open and generous. I just like giving the narrow ones hell–not that they won’t earn their share of that before the journey is done. Your journey though sounds quite full.

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