Over the past week I’ve read — both on social media and news outlets — a number of colorful opinions regarding my generation. That is, those of us generally born between 1980 and 2004, known as millennials.
I’ve heard millennials described in an unflattering light by baby boomers and Gen Xers for the past couple of years now, but even more so these past few days. We’re overeducated. We need to shut up and get jobs. We need to learn that everyone doesn’t get a trophy. We don’t work hard enough. We’re brats who demand safe spaces and decry trigger words.
Maybe. I certainly agree some of us are. But it is extremely unfair and unkind to label and deride our generation as a whole. Your sacrifices and hard work made it possible in part for us to go to school to learn to think freely, and I am truly grateful for that. As President John Adams said, “I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.”
Studies from Gallup, the Pew Research Center and more show repeatedly that we are the most empathetic, involved, diverse and educated generation to date. We feel strongly about things and stand up for them. Most of us are not mourning the election results because we lost, but because we know people who will be affected. We’re not content to sit back, saying “this too shall pass.”
Unfortunately, research and data no longer hold weight over entrenched opinions. So I’ll tell you what I’m doing. I’m volunteering. I’m donating my time and money to causes that help people who are genuinely afraid right now, like refugee assistance programs and human rights groups. I’m working to recruit more people every day to do the same. I’m determined to fight for what’s good, even though my elders are ridiculing me for it.
It is a good thing that we are caring about each other more as a generation — it shows that we are making progress and have the means to do that. Both research and proponents of the millennial generation (such as Tom Brokaw, a well-known champion of the Greatest Generation) have said over and over that millennials are going to change the world. Why don’t you join us? Or don’t. But just know this: While you’re calling us entitled crybabies who need to roll up our sleeves and get to work, we’ll be the ones keeping America “great.”
Erin McClure is a writer and creative media consultant in Boise. She is also an independent contributor for Boise State Public Radio.