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Millennials Are The Future, And That’s Not So Bad

By Debra-Lynn B. Hook
Tribune News Service.

I’ve never been one to bash Millennials, that so-called entitled, self-centered, social-media-obsessed, bunch of lazy, narcissistic young adults born between 1982 and 1997.

First off, I admire the Man of the Millennial Hour, Mark Zuckerberg, especially given his recent pledge to donate 99 percent of his Facebook-shares to charity.

Secondly, Millennials outnumber me and my fellow Baby Boomers, 80 million of them to 66 million of us.

Thirdly, as a mother of three Millennials, also called Generation Y, I feel at least partially responsible.

When an entire generation of kids is being labeled narcissistic, lazy and entitled, wouldn’t it hold true that the generation of people who parented them, namely mine, had something to do with it?

But the main reason I don’t bash this current crop of young adults is because I know that entitlement is only part of the story.

The other part involves the world I’ve watched my children and their friends grow up in, including the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

These kids came of age seeing millions of Americans, including their parents and their friends’ parents, lose jobs and homes.

They saw those left standing as stressed-out, silenced workhorses, tied to the workplace, out of balance with the rest of their lives and afraid to make a peep, lest they be “laid off” too.

This is the generation that watched its government bail out Wall Street but then leave college tuitions to double and student-loan debt to quadruple. Millennials experienced the disappearance of the American Dream, the demise of employer loyalty and the rise of their country’s income inequality to levels unparalleled in the industrialized world. They followed the fledgling war on terror and witnessed the effects of many botched international conflicts, especially the failed 2002 invasion of Iraq. They saw the devaluing of America’s name abroad, witnessed 9/11 and came of age during an era of rampant mass shootings and gun violence in their own backyards.

Millennials left childhood understandably skeptical of the status quo: A survey released last week by the Pew Research Center says Millennials are less religious than any other generation in U.S. history. They are less likely to align with the bickering political parties they saw getting nothing done in Congress, and more inclined to label themselves independent, according to recent polls.

They are skeptical, but by no means are they shut down. This is the GoFundMe generation that watched young revolutionaries use social media to encourage mass demonstrations that toppled entire Arab regimes. Social pundits and demographers see Millennials as particularly active socially and politically, just through different channels than ours, as evidenced by their social-media content. Indeed, this generation is more connected, more world-traveled, more cosmopolitan than ours, with a passion for purpose rather than wealth; only 40 percent believe salary is more important than doing work they love, reports forbes.com.

Whereas we lived to work, Millennials believe in working to live, but only if they like the work; only if they’re able to balance work with creativity and family; and only if they are given leadership opportunities; a voice in the work place; and regular feedback about their job performance, says Pew. They do not like being anyone’s pawn, which is partly what leads naysayers to call this generation lazy and entitled. Don’t let them express themselves, don’t give them opportunities to rise in the ranks, and they will abandon ship in search of an employer who will appreciate them.

There’s something else: Ironically, given what they’ve witnessed, this generation is more optimistic about the future than we were at their age. Despite the gloom and doom, 80 percent believe they will do as well or better than their parents, according to a Bank of America/USA Today Better Money Habits Millennial Report.

“As the most technologically connected, progressive and globally-minded generation in history, they (also) have the tools and networking abilities at their disposal to work toward the changes they desire,” wrote senior political columnist John Haltiwanger for Elite Daily, the “voice of Generation Y.”

The most common age in America is 22, says the U.S. Census Bureau. The largest generation in the work force is Millennials, at 34 percent, compared to Baby Boomers, at 29 percent, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In many ways, this is daunting for us Baby Boomers, who are used to holding the reins. It was not so long ago that we were the ones set to change the world.

In other ways, this is exciting.

Millennials are pushing on some of the same issues many of us Baby Boomers were dissatisfied with in the 70s. They’re just pushing differently, at times louder, with crazy gadgets we still haven’t figured out.

Call me a progressive, call me a molly-coddling apologist for my kids.

But I think instead of bashing, we should befriend, even applaud, this massive, most educated, most powerful generation that can cue mass demonstrations with the touch of a send button.

They are the future, there’s no question about that.

And I, for one, want a #seatatthetable.
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(Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, has been writing about family life since 1988)

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