The generation called the Millennials consists of those born between 1980 and 2000. The mainstream media loves to bash this group by attributing quotes to their baby boomer supervisors such as informal, bold, entitled, hard to manage, too tied to technology, and light on interpersonal skills.
My kids and their friends are Millennials. I’m always surprised by the negativity in the media surrounding this group. My personal experiences have been far different with the Millennials. What’s not to love about their acceptance of diversity? What’s not to love about their commitment to new experiences? What’s not to love about their willingness to serve? What’s not to love about their ability to fix the VCR or the computer?
This is the group that has taught me how to use Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and an iPhone. They’ve taught me that people don’t need adjectives to describe them. They’ve allowed me to live vicariously through their journeys to all corners of the globe. They’ve clarified that undergraduate college is a chance to explore new passion areas rather than focus on a course of study that will provide the most lucrative jobs. I’ve learned so much more from them than they have from me.
Today I had a chance to hear Van Jones speak at a conference. Mr. Jones is an American environmental advocate, civil rights activist, and attorney. He has served Special Advisor for Green Jobs for President Obama and holds an appointment at Princeton University. He is also the bestselling author of the Green Collar Economy. As I sat down for the lecture, I expected to hear a discussion about sustainability and livable communities, but quickly Mr. Jones took the conversation to a different place.
Only blocks from the balcony where Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, Mr. Jones began to talk to an “exploited class of citizens.” At that point, I thought this might have been a civil rights lecture, but then he went on to explain that this “exploited class of citizens are called interns and they are geniuses.” As a parent of Millennials, I know only too well that many of them find themselves in long-term internships after graduation from college. The largest economic decline since the Great Depression has been hard on this generation. Jobs are limited. Many of them toil for little or no pay to gain precious experience for their resumes.
Mr. Jones went on to explain that the Millennials will be the paradigm shift that can save us. He is confident that they are the problem solvers of the world and through their access to technology they solve problems collectively. He said, “They have no wealth, but they are building an economy based on sharing.” This is the generation that created crowdsourcing, couchsurfing, smartcars, and Kiva.
The best news of the day came when Van Jones said they will be the dominant political force in this country by 2020 when they will represent one third of registered voters. At that point, this baby boomer heaved a sigh of relief. I know in my heart that my generation’s wealth hoarding, environment damaging, and hate mongering is an unsustainable model. I am ready for a paradigm shift. And I’m very glad to know that the Millennials will be leading that charge.