Millennials, Dreams, and the Bigger Picture

Last Friday, January 20, Harlan Hill, described in an Editor’s Note as a startup founder and political consultant, published an opinion articled entitled “What Millennials Want from Donald Trump” for CNN’s web based media: (What millennials want…). Before offering direction for this piece, I am inclined to suggest that I frequently visit the opinion section of most online or print medium because I find the writing to be more authentic, raw, and personal than other areas of focus, and Hill’s work was no exception. I find it impressive for one to draft a piece that explores personal opinion while also maintaining journalistic integrity and teetering appropriately the line of bias that any work worth its salt strives to do. In a way, this post is a response to his work–in a way, this is also a reflection of my own.

As a man of 31, I fall on the edge of millennial status–and even that is controversial depending on which definition you might find when perusing the Internet. Nevertheless, I graduated college in 2009, experienced the challenges of attempting to establish a career that utilizes my degree amid economic angst, and worked diligently with my wife and we found some luck along the way that allowed us to buy a home and consider having children. Still, as Hill points out in his article with regularity and in various ways, “…many American millennials have delayed major life milestones simply because we can’t afford them.” For greater context, he says “we” due to his own age–26. He defines some of these milestones as purchasing a home, getting married, and having children–and having the economic means to afford these achievements if desired. Still, despite recognizing some of the realities presented within his argument, I was drawn to one of his closing statements that I am inclined to disagree with. In way of offering advice to Trump, Hill stated:

…don’t get bogged down in the distraction of social issues. Millennials don’t care who wants to get married. Millennials don’t want government telling women what to do with their bodies. Millennials just want an economy that works for us again. If Trump can pull it off, millennials — and the parents of millennials still living at home — will support Trump in record numbers come 2020.

I was on board or at least understanding of Hill’s thoughts until he penned the aforementioned advice–and maybe that was his intent. Any writer willing to incite controversy and debate is alright in my book. And in this case, I have to debate his notion that millennials don’t care about who wants to get married, what government attempts to tell women to do with their bodies, or anything of the sort that calls into play social issues that demand us to call on and develop our courage and compassion as human beings. Yet it has taken me time to get to this point of affirmative thought and consequent action. For a long time, I felt that if I said that I had no objections to lifestyles different than mine, then I was to be seen as taking a moral high ground or stance. My tolerance was a way of remaining neutral and even admirable in some circles–right? But in fact, I was taking no stance, and this was a truth difficult to understand and reconcile when for the entirety of my life I had benefitted from leading a somewhat common and unimpeded life. But today–today I think differently. Today I cannot agree with Hill’s sentiment–one which only a few years ago I might well have. And despite the fact that I think he meant to be relatable and benign in his commentary, I believe that tossing around social issues that affect individuals and communities like paper airplanes still leave some of us with paper cuts–an analogy that I know does not do justice to the magnitude of this topic. We have to stand firm and address the inequities of our time, for while benign commentary may not seek to hurt, it also does nothing to address the malignancy of a world in need of repair. Still, I appreciate Hill’s stance despite disagreeing, for he has opened a dialogue and left room for my thought to develop and expand.

The dream for millennials is no different than it was and is for members of other generations. The world around us has shifted, but that is not exclusive to a group or subgroup. In fact, it is inclusive to any person that desires anything–albeit a first home, a new car, funds for an engagement ring, or any other measure of personally or societally defined success that one deems important. Yes, the country’s economy shifts–this is an inevitability that most people have little control over, and that is simultaneously exactly why we should pay attention to it and worry less about it. This conclusion is not to suggest a call for financial or social irresponsibility–far from it. It is a call to pay attention to and work diligently toward the betterment of what is within our control. For some of us, that is the state of the economy. For many others, we, millennials and members of all generations, can have strong opinions and actions regarding social issues that concern our very being and way of living together. We can promote fairness and humane treatment of all people, regardless of differences. Yet if we fail to establish and develop these less tangible traits, it might be hard to smile amid any type of economy if its people have become increasingly apathetic toward social concerns.

We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.

-Ellen DeGeneres

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