Millennials are going to play a critical role in turning around the long-term direction of America. The influence of baby boomers will wane during the next 10 to 20 years. And, Gen X does not seem to have what it takes to initiate real change, as they have adopted pretty much the same perspectives as boomers.
Apparently, our nation did not learn very much from its experiences in Vietnam, where 58,000 American soldiers died and 303,000 were wounded in action. The war devastated the baby boomer generation, and yet, the same people anxiously supported the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Domestically, the schism between liberals and conservatives that boomers encouraged over the years has emasculated our government as both sides now cater to the most radical elements in their tribes. The nation craves sensible, middle of the road politicians, who are willing to accept and initiate compromise in the interest of their country.
I believe millennials can fill the leadership void when their turn arrives, if they adopt a more diverse and expansive mindset. So, it is important for Americans to get to know millennials more intimately because it will be up to them to return America to its former greatness during the coming decades.
Statistically, millennials total about 80 million, approximately the same size as the baby boom generation. 60% are white, 14% black, 19% Latino, 5% Asian, and 2% are "other." This compares to baby boomers, who are 77% white, 12% black, 9% Latino, and 2% Asian. The variance between millennials and baby boomers is, to a degree, a result of the large Hispanic influx in recent years. It should also be noted that without the aforementioned, the total number of millennials would be less than baby boomers because their birth rates were lower.
Millennials are still very attached to their parents. High college tuition expenses along with the effects of the Great Recession are two of the principal reasons for this phenomenon. Thirty percent of millennials have lived at home during the current economic crisis, as 50% were either unemployed or underemployed.
Millennials are still emotionally tied to their parents. Forty percent consider their parents to be mentors. Boomer parents are anxious to be helpful to their children as they have a sense of guilt relating to current conditions in the country.
Other characteristics of millennials include:
— Frequent technological contact with friends, family, and co-workers. Keep in mind the internet was not yet invented when boomers were 30 years old.
— Millennials are changing reproductive habits meaning that they are having children later in life and deferring this responsibility while they deal with financial issues.
— Buying a home is not possible for many millennials because of the job situation. Boomers flocked to the housing market in their 20s and 30s.
Here are a few other random factoids for your consumption:
— The median number of text messages sent by millennials is 50 per day.
— 47% of 16-24 year olds are employed, the lowest since this started being calculated in 1948.
— 46% exercised vigorously in the last 24 hours.
— 44% think marriage is obsolete.
— 39% have a tattoo.
— 38% are Democrats, 28% Independent, and 26% Republican.
— 37% of 18-29 year olds are unemployed.
— 35% started a business on the side to supplement their income.
— 33% live in cities, 14% live in rural areas.
— 28% have a gun in their home.
— Email usage for millennials dropped by 27% last year.
— 26% have no religious affiliation.
— 25 it's the average age of new moms, and 27 for new fathers.
— 21% think helping the poor is the most important issue.
So what should we make of the 80 million millennials? Seems like they still have a lot to learn about life and business before they are ready to assume greater responsibility in America. Yet, I have a sense that they are more intellectual and astute about current events than baby boomers. This is a good characteristic because they will have to learn quickly.
During this maturation process, I believe millennials should focus on three areas.
Millennials must begin to take a constructive role in trying to change many aspects of American life. But effective activism should not be limited to marching in the streets. Activism should be characterized by getting involved politically. Frankly, our brightest young people should be delving into local politics now. It takes time to make your bones in government, build a following, and understand the problems of your local community. The older generation must be replaced at every level. The sooner millennials begin this process, the better.
Pragmatism is essential. When millennials think ahead they should minimize the dreaming and zero in on attainable goals. Solving the global climate problem is a noble objective, but one should start by working towards fewer emissions in the local area. Feeding the world is a wonderful concept, but begin by providing food to everyone in your city. Don't tilt at windmills. Be focused and specific. Before you know it, you will have a terrific resume that will afford you opportunities to take on larger problems.
The dearth of effective leadership is one of the most serious issues in our country. We need men and women who want to lead all Americans, not just the rich or the poor, black or white, liberal or conservative. When you get in a position of power, consolidate your constituencies, find compromises, and encourage participation.
The world is waiting to be led by millennials. Now that some of your have blown past 30, you are about ready to jump into the fight. Do it with intellect, compassion, and comity, and you will really go places.