A Millennial Response To This Boomer’s Letter
I’m a Millennial with the most Boomer of parents. My mother was at Woodstock and my father was drafted. I grew up listening to Bonnie Raitt and the Stones and Jefferson Airplane and Carly Simon.
So when I read this piece entitled Letter To The Millennials: A Boomer Professor Talks To His Students, I was very interested in what he had to say.
I appreciated much of it.
It also made me sad.
To me, the article fell into the same category as several I’ve seen, pieces that tend to enumerate all the things that are wrong in the world while either implicitly or explicitly lamenting the fact that this current generation seems inadequate in terms of facing them.
I know that’s not really what the article said.
In fact, it’s thoughtful and beautifully written. It’s nostalgic and lovely and meaningful. But by the end of it I felt discouraged. Disheartened. Like I’d never be good enough. I felt like I wanted to just give up.
Let me be frank. We, the generation that came of age with 9/11, are already apprised of all the ways in which the world sucks. We don’t need more doomsday tales about how it’s all going to sh*t. We don’t need more statistics about how climate change is going to preclude our children from having a real future. We don’t need more pieces outlining how we’re narcissistic or deluded or the Peter Pan generation that doesn’t want to grow up. We don’t need it intimated or outright stated that past generations have been more creative, more generous, more courageous.
I understand that things can look bleak. Situations like Ferguson are distressing. But do you know what else happened in Ferguson besides all the violence?
One woman went around with milk to help those who’d been tear gassed (it helps soothe the eyes). Community members gathered around stores that had been looted and asked how they could help. Citizens with vehicles offered rides and shelter to reporters in potential danger. Where damage had been done, neighbors helped neighbors with cleanup.
Some of those people were Boomers. Some were Millennials.
We’re strongest when we stand together.
Let me tell you about another time we stood together.
I was 25 and hopeful when I canvassed for Obama the first time. I was 26 and thrilled when he was elected.
I was 26 and proud when I went to inauguration.
Because let me tell you: That inauguration was a big, huge, American party. People young and old, black and white, gay and straight, Asian, Latino, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, and every shade in between gathered. We were celebrating change, celebrating progress, celebrating democracy, celebrating life (even if life at that moment was as cold as I think I’ve ever been).
We ran the gamut, age-wise. Boomers, GenX, Millennials – you name it. We were age diverse with one gigantic thing in common: We were unabashedly, indescribably, overwhelmingly pumped to be there.
I’m still pumped to be here, in America, as we develop in this new century.
Are there things to be improved upon? You bet your ass.
Are we a serious ways off from a utopia? Hell yes.
Trust me: I’m a young woman in the professional world. I know we’ve got a long way to go.
But the way we’re going to get there will be by empowering and galvanizing those coming up in the ranks, not by focusing on all the things that aren’t working, or how it used to be better, or on all of the bad things that could happen.
Boomers: In order to face the massive challenges that lie ahead, what we need from you is not your frustration that our attention spans are too short or your concern that we might screw it up because we’re always on our smartphones or your fear that the world is too far gone for us to make any kind of difference at all.
Instead, we need your encouragement, your optimism, your commitment. We need you to help us recognize, call in, and cultivate the best of which we’re capable. We need you to help us identify the unique opportunities we have, not just the challenges.
In other words, we need your faith.
Because what we truly want is for you to see all the ways that who we are and what we’re up to are worthwhile, even if they’re unfamiliar to you. We want you to tell us we can do it!, that we can rise to the challenge of this new century with responsibility and dedication and joy and abandon. We want you to tell us that we have unprecedented and remarkable chances to do things like help raise over $100 million for ALS with a viral meme, or shut down the FCC’s website for a day in a stand for net neutrality because of a clip we saw on John Oliver, or use Facebook and a text campaign to help get the first black man ever elected leader of the free world.
You, the Boomers, wanted to change the world. You still do.
We, the Millennials, do too.
We want to change the world and repair the damage and keep the faith and hold the vision and heal the hurt and bring people together and lift ourselves up and bring everyone else up along with us.
We really, really do.
We also want you to understand us. We want you to know that we think a lot about how we can impact things, where we fit in, how we can give our gifts in the biggest way possible.
Bottom line: We want to do right by you.
To do that, we need your wisdom, yes. But equally if not more so, we need you to believe in us.
Melanie is a card-carrying member of the Millennial generation and the human race. She invites connection of all kinds, including on her website. And if you identify as a Millennial and want to join her list, you can do so here.
Melanie is also proud to be a woman in tech. She is Director of Communications for OpiaTalk, the social shopping widget for retailers. OpiaTalk releases a time-sensitive promo on your site once a certain amount of visitors click, and also drives opted-in leads. Our latest client is seeing up to 19% in-widget conversions (nope, not a typo). You can get us at email@example.com.