I just celebrated a birthday. As a member of "Generation Y," here is what I guess is the good news for me: G-d willing, I still have (at most, assuming that there is no fountain of youth discovered) approximately three-quarters of a century still ahead of me. Yet, I still recently started thinking about time and how GenY stands in it.
Here is how this all happened: I turned on the television on my birthday and saw an early episode of "Friends." Suddenly, it hit me: this show looked old.
Of course, everything is relative and many people older would read this piece thus far and think my comments are patently absurd. "He's so young," they would say. "What is he even writing about?" they might ask. So let me get straight to the point: I think that each generation must have a moment in time where its members ask "Why are we here?" or "What is our purpose?" and I think that for GenY, our time is now.
Of course, I don't literally mean "now." But I think that the world witnessed the beginning of this movement in America's last election with the campaign and victory of President Obama. As GenY is defined loosely by births between 1982 and 1991 (source being Wikipedia here), this would make the oldest GenY member 26 at the time of the 2008 election, 22 in 2004 and 18 in 2000. For the youngest members of GenY, they would be 17, too young to vote in 2008.
So here is what we have if we look at only the oldest possible voters and those above the voting age by 2008 (those born in between the cutoff years): a scenario where GenY, arguably the most technologically-savvy and technologically knowledgeable generation; a generation in which most of its members statistically vote Democrat; a generation that had its oldest members turn 18 in 2000, who may or may not have participated in the electoral process, and for those who did, may have been dissuaded from future participation from an oddly, unprecedented, contested election resulting in a victory for President Bush.
At age 22, the oldest members of GenY saw President Bush win again.
Finally, in 2008, the members of GenY between 18 and 26 who were left leaning had enough, and for the most part their horse in this race was Senator Obama. And ka-boom, the resulting movement was impalpable and unstoppable.
Anyone who says that GenY is apathetic, especially politically apathetic, was proved significantly wrong in 2008. The question now is where do we go from here?
The Greatest Generation, as Tom Brokaw refers to them, paved the way for the Baby Boomers, who paved the way for Generation X, who paved the way for us, GenY. I believe that we, GenY, have an obligation to show not only America, but the entire world that we will continue to use our talents in creating or joining movements for change; for example, with text messaging for Haiti relief. In each of these movements, however, we must not let our egos get in the way: first of all, in many platforms, members of Generation X (those born from 1961 to 1981, the source again being Wikipedia) or even in some cases, the Baby Boomers have been the inventors of the technology. We, members of GenY, are often just the users - but that doesn't mean that we still cannot help take leadership in the cause.
Still, often, it is GenY who is teaching our elders in our new technologically filled world. And so as older generations are increasingly able to embrace technology (with parents joining Facebook and using iPhones, iPads, and Blackberries gradually more) the movement merges more into one and suddenly it may not be GenY who is at solely the forefront. This is good for society. Both historically and anthropologically speaking, how many times has a younger generation been able to teach an older one? Not often. Embedded in our society is the notion to learn from our elders.
Thus, GenY, now is our calling. Now is our time. We have the power to change the world. This does not mean to leave others from different generations behind: we learn, we listen, we teach. Let's all change this world together, through a text, through a Facebook message, or through a tweet. But let's also not forget how those before us did it, including The Greatest Generation: through a handshake, through a meeting, or through a conversation.
David Helfenbein has also posted this blog posting on his site, http://www.TheBeanPredicts.com, under his blog, The Bean Blog.
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