100-year-old patriarch is witness to staggering change


My grandpa, Martin Buer, turns 100 today. Born in 1911, Grandpa went on to become a top breeder of grand champion cattle out of his Minnesota ranch. To keep the peace with a disgruntled family member, Grandpa gave up his renowned, award-winning ranch, which he ran with his brother. Then he focused solely on farming. That’s a quick glimpse into the character of my dad’s dad.

Grandpa has witnessed staggering changes in just about every aspect of life while building an ever-growing family tree.

I’ll try to put his 100 years in perspective with a few historic milestones:

  • Grandpa was born just 32 years after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb (1879) and 35 years after Alexander Bell’s 1876 telephone patent
  • The first airplane took flight in 1903, eight years before his birth
  • Two years after Grandpa’s birth, Henry Ford began building automobiles on a mass production line (1913)
  • U.S. entered World War I in 1917
  • Electricity became common in most cities by the 1920s
  • Radio began regular broadcasts in 1920
  • Stock market crashed in 1929, helping to usher in Great Depression
  • Regularly scheduled television broadcasts began in 1939
  • U.S.attacked by Japanon Dec. 7, 1941, and plunged into World War II
  • First electronic general-purpose computer began operating in 1946
  • Laser created in 1960
  • Man landed on moon in 1969
  • First mobile cell phone used in 1973
  • Space shuttle launched for first time in 1981
  • Communism was largely defeated and Berlin Wall toppled in 1989
  • Internet became fairly widespread by mid-1990s
  • Hybrid car technology hit the worldwide masses with the Toyota Prius in 2001
  • Facebook launched for Harvard students in 2004
  • YouTube invaded the Net in 2005
  • Twitter unveiled to the public in 2006
  • Apple’s iPhone changed the smartphone landscape forever in 2007

Though communication and transportation innovation dominate in the above timeline, Grandpa Buer has also lived through a health and medical revolution that has seen life expectancy for a U.S. male born in 1911 leap from 49.86 years to 75.4 for a male born in 2007.

I am grateful to Grandpa Buer for the life he has lived, for the principles and values he and Grandma Buer instilled in their four boys.

I am also thankful that Great-Grandpa Buer immigrated to America from Norway. I’m grateful there was a place of freedom and opportunity for immigrants to come to.

I’m hopeful the next 100 years will bring continued progress in areas like health, technology, transportation and energy. I hope the next 100 years will see fewer wars, less disease and sickness, less hunger, less vitriol and less addiction to the myriad vices plaguing our families and friends.

[pullquote]I think the last 100 years have provided ample evidence that, under the right conditions, humans can produce more of the good things and less of the bad things. [/pullquote]I think the last 100 years have provided ample evidence that, under the right conditions, humans can produce more of the good things and less of the bad things. If a combination of success, happiness and high quality of life for the greatest number of people possible is the measuring stick, then the free market republic is the clear winner, while communism and socialism are exposed as the cause of so much human misery and suffering.

No political or economic system is perfect, and each has its shortcomings, because each system is created and administered by imperfect humans.

But a community that provides security for its people, keeps government to appropriate levels, allows for human creativity and innovation, provides opportunities for all yet favors none, expects excellence in education and health, and allows for both failure and success is a community that, if history is any indicator, will exceed the feats of progress of the last 100 years.

So to you, Grandpa, I say thank you for your legacy and for the role you played in shaping our family and the world around you. I take inspiration and hope from Grandpa as we continue to create the story of our family, and the world, for the next 100 years.