Fit for Print: Millennials, you’re up!

By : Steve Blanchard
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Millennials fascinate me.

Recently, my work-life has brought me within close proximity of these young adults born after 1980. Many members of this first generation to come of age in the 21st century can be loud, obnoxious, socially awkward, distracted by their phones and dismissive of older generations.

But there are many stereotypes they don’t fulfill. I’ve yet to see one eat avocado toast and have met several who own their own homes!

While they don’t fit all of those stereotypes created by online surveys, they do seem to be far more intelligent than many give them credit for. They look at life in a way that is different than those of us who came before them and now that they are in society as adults, they can be the game-changers who can have a lasting effect for years to come.Many of my Generation X brothers and sisters love to laugh at the population next in line. Their addiction to smart phones, tablets and online shopping has led to their must-have-things-immediately mentality.

This generates plenty of “when I was your age” tales from Generation Xers that make us sound just as our parents did. It proves the age gap is cyclical, alive and well and will probably never disappear.

But within this new age gap is hope.

For years I was convinced that my generation was going to be the one to change the world. We were going to usher in equality, eradicate racism and have the types of open minds that showed the Baby Boomers how things should be handled. Progress was at our fingertips and as the older generation faded into the sunset, we were going to set a course into the future that was open to understanding, new ideas and equality.

So many possibilities were before us and we did make a few strides, but we somehow lost control.

We decided that watching the drama of reality TV was more entertaining and important than broadening our minds. We turned social media into a weapon rather than a way to share life’s adventures and remain connected. We decided that it was okay to simply disconnect from those with whom we disagreed rather than engage in conversations that enlightened and educated. We also took for granted that any victories earned for progress were permanent and etched into the history books.

We were wrong.

So today it’s time for those next in line to pick up where we failed. Fellow Gen Xers, we have to accept our shortcomings and realize that while we are still very much viable, the new ideas and worldview of our younger counterparts should be embraced.

Before you start typing nasty comments online, please understand that I do credit Generation X with our fair share of accomplishments. We saw marriage equality become reality, the first African-American president sat in the White House and, through our viewing habits we helped make LGBTQ characters on television popular and uncontroversial. We even managed to influence some church congregations to accept our families and perform same-sex marriage ceremonies within their chapels.

We had a lot to celebrate but we took that progress for granted. Today we’re seeing the world slip backward. All of the progress we made is vulnerable and any landmarks we achieved are at a very real risk of being deleted from history.

At the risk of sounding like my own parents, I have to admit it’s time for us to pass the baton—or at least share it with millennials and lift up those who are next in line. It’s time to support the millennials rather than mock them. They are already making progress in an era where progress is increasingly considered a dirty word.

They are generating real advances by using technology in ways we couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago and sparking conversations about sensible gun control. Many are changing the way corporations view the workforce and many others are actively seeking elected positions.

Reports say that almost 700 millennials are running for state legislatures in this year’s midterms in 46 states! Most of those candidates are running as Democrats and 14 are doing so in Florida. That means real change could be here much sooner than any of us expect.

We have to release control and learn to trust those who are coming up behind us. It’s not easy, I know. It can be difficult to look at YouTube stars and Instagram influencers as the generation that might save us from the dangerous path we’re on. But just because we don’t understand the ways in which they make their living doesn’t mean that they can’t make living better for all of us in the not-so-distant future.

So, yes, millennials fascinate me. Not only because their worldview is so different than mine, but because I believe that they may be the generation to actually get things done and set a new standard for the future.

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