The Promise of the Millennials

When we debated our definition of the American Promise, “freedom of access to an equal opportunity to succeed (or to fail),” we discussed at length how we could consistently apply this characterization of the American Promise to young Americans. We wanted to speak to all Americans about how Fulfilling the American Promise in the Connected Age is so important in such a special way to our progeny, the group we call Millennials.

There are a lot of blogs by and for Millennials; there are too many to even begin listing here. Ease and freedom of expression of a wide variety of perspectives has been one of the hallmarks of the Connected Age for people of every generation, but particularly the Millennials. These Millennial perspectives can form a vast resource of insight and inspiration while setting the stage for what America becomes…if we start realizing it and nurturing this emerging body of work now.

In The Next America, Paul Taylor of The Pew Research Center reports that the Millennial Generation began in 1981 and that the cut-off year has not yet been determined. [i] Whatever the actual dates may be, the Millennials are graduating from school and taking their place in junior leadership positions (when they are available) or other employment opportunities (when they are available). By Taylor’s calculations, this means at least 34% of the American population can be considered part of the Millennial cohort, using 2012 US Census data.

This also means that 34% of the US population that will be responsible for the future of America and running for elected office across the country is now starting to take its place on the American scene.

Boomers and Generation X cohorts [ii] have been responsible to prepare America for this up and coming generation. In light of the American Promise theme, it’s worth doing an inventory of what we Boomers and Gen X’ers are accomplishing on behalf of the Millennials, and indeed on behalf of the future of America. What have our earlier generations done to set the tone for growth and development of our budding leaders?

In terms of leadership, we’ve shown the Millennials the “productivity” of a starkly, edge-driven Congress and other federal, state and locally elected officials. We’ve demonstrated to our young people how to use politics to rig election district boundaries, solicit enormous sums of politically-motivated monies, fight against protecting our environment and exploit an all-too-willing media to further divide our nation. Pretty impressive examples, the edges might claim.

The senior generations have also overseen the significant escalation of education and healthcare costs while enabling the rise of wealth for a select few who have little regard for the principles of the American Promise. We’ve shown how our young people can “benefit” more by being investment bankers and stock brokers than becoming scientists, civil servants and educators. Again, this is another impressive list of accomplishments that can serve as examples on which to build the America of the next generation and beyond…well, no, not really. What in the world are we thinking?

From time-to-time, we’ll visit a very fine piece of work accomplished by Captain Wayne Porter, USN and Colonel Mark (Puck) Mykleby, USMC (ret) called “A National Strategic Narrative.” We’ll look at this document in increasing detail as we unroll the relationship of the Millennials to the future of America. But for now we want to emphasize the Narrative’s points about the youth of America and what they can do for all of us if we empower them. In speaking about young Americans, Wayne and Puck wrote:

By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans – the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow – we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth. [iii]

This is more than parents doing the right thing and setting good examples for our children…this is about investing in the children of all Americans to build the future of our nation. As Wayne and Puck note, these investments build on the most important infrastructure component we could possibly construct: our young people and the intellectual capital they will need to keep America going.

By cooperating even as a politically-driven body, our senior generations now in power can set the tone and framework starting today. By recognizing and being accountable for what we’ve done to our future generations, the rest of us can start electing responsible people who care more about America and our young people than themselves…who care more about our future than measuring a campaign coffer. Through the electoral process and a responsible political system, we can “sand” the edges from divisive office-holders and start building a system that rewards “competitive cooperation” and collaboration rather than simply “win-at-all-costs” politics.

The Millennials we talk to and read about want to step up and take their place, just like we did when we were their age. They’re not lazy and they’re not unmotivated…they are Americans who love their country but have to overcome college debt, healthcare costs and meager job prospects. Worst of all, they have to overcome less access to opportunity than many of our older generations faced.

Let’s start fixing that now, Boomers and Gen Y’ers…let’s cooperate and try harder to create access to opportunity for our young people – they have great Promise. Let’s empower all Americans to Fulfill the American Promise in the Connected Age.

Originally posted by Carl and Chuck Hunt, 5/8/2014.

 

[i] A claim in dispute in some circles based on the beginning of the so-called “Generation Z” in the mid-2000s.

[ii] 1946-1964 and 1965-1980, respectively, according to Taylor in The Next America.

[iii] Quoted from the section “Our Three Investment Priorities” from A National Strategic Narrative.

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