Whenever I hear my generation referred to as “Millennials,” I can’t help but wryly remember the anticlimactic event for which it has been labeled. I’m sure many of my fellow Millennials remember the frenetic energy in the air shortly before the turn of the millennium. Older generations fretted about the impending “Y2K” crisis, unnerved by the prospect of technology having the power to potentially upend an entire society. Though we were young and arguably more naïve to the changing world, we did not seem to be fazed by the hype. After all, we were the first generation that grew up with computers in our classrooms and an Internet connection in our homes. Even today, as older generations have manifested their fears into new concerns over privacy, our generation seems to continue to defy these cautions and use technology to share parts of their lives that have previously been left to the pages of diaries.
Of course, for our generation, rebellion against older ways of thinking is nothing new. But sadly, in the past few years, the Millennial generation has been defined not by what we are, but what we aren’t. Namely, we aren’t married, we aren’t homeowners, and we aren’t parents — at least not in the same percentages as generations before us.
Much of that has to do with two problematic trends: rising debt and high unemployment. Under the Obama administration, the graduating class of 2012 became the most indebted in history. The number of student borrowers has soared by 70 percent since 2004, and the average balance has skyrocketed to $24,700.
It’s not just that students are in debt; it’s that there are no jobs in the Obama economy to help them to repay it. Indeed, the unemployment rate for Americans aged 18-29 stood at 13.1 percent in January. Moreover, according to an analysis conducted last year by the Associated Press, an incredible 53.6 percent of college graduates, or roughly 1.5 million young adults, are either underemployed or unemployed. Those aren’t just statistics; the American Dream is becoming an illusory relic of the past for the Millennials.
Millennials are enterprising, innovative, and connected. We are preternaturally optimistic, more confident in our own abilities to succeed than discouraged, despite the economic woes around us. We are technologically savvy and willing to topple industries to achieve the customization we prefer.
All of this represents a tremendous opportunity for the Republican Party. Millennials prize entrepreneurship, something that is particularly expressed through our zeal for cutting-edge technology. As Republicans, we must explain how free markets unleash competition without the yoke of government-favored industries. When Millennials dream of starting the next Facebook or PayPal, we must show how lower taxes and fewer regulations increase the chance for start-ups to get off the ground. Above all, as Millennials strive for customization, it is imperative that we describe how the one-size-fits-all approach to big-government is an anachronism best left to a different, defunct America.
The past two presidential elections have shown that our party has largely lost its way with young adults. College Republicans are endeavoring to change that, one campus at a time. It is our hope that young people will join us in rebelling against outdated and unworkable government-based remedies, and instead embrace our organic innovative spirit that defines us as uniquely Millennial.