Whether it's the looming presidential election or an impending birthday catapulting me into my next decade, I find myself part of the millennial generation that's obsessively pondering the current course of this country.
I grew up in Detroit -- a city historically built on innovation. In the '80s and '90s, however, the "dirty D" (as we fondly called it), seemed more like an abandoned desert than a circuit of modernization. Living in the suburbs and visiting Detroit on the weekends to see a show or game, with locked doors of course, the lens through which I saw the city was one of empathy but also inaction.
After college I planted my roots in Washington, D.C., determined to apply my education and years of observation to making change. I would use my top liberal arts education to influence policy. So I followed the natural course of so many hopeful drudges taking up jobs in public policy and issue advocacy. At the epicenter of lawmaking, I was sure to make a difference... Right?
Not so fast. What was once a governmental body built by innovators is now a Congress so politically charged it's become adverse to change. Having spent the last decade banging down the red and blue doors of Congress, pleading for progress, reform or even just adaptation, I've come to realize that my energy is best directed elsewhere. It is not Congress that built the auto industry in the 1920s, and it's not Congress that is going to discover the next revolutionary technology.
My intention is not to say that Congress is useless. I believe policy does and can play a very important role in sustaining the core elements of our society. However I have come to understand that it is the work happening outside of Washington, on the ground, that is going to put cities like Detroit -- and the country -- back on a forward moving track.
Now, I am at the forefront of change. As director at Rocket Fuel Partners, a firm helping start-ups, small and mid-sized companies grow and innovate, every day I meet an entrepreneur, not a curmudgeon politician, with a big idea to advance and improve our world. My work gives me the ability to impact someone's life by helping him or her pursue his or her dreams.
This has taught me that progress and innovation will not be determined by the next president, but by young change-makers. Every eight seconds, a baby boomer turns 65, and they'll continue to turn 65 until 2029. It's clear that the millennial generation -- my generation -- must carry the burden to pick up the pieces of those that came before us. With that burden comes huge opportunity to make things that lead to economic opportunity, to build things that provide job growth, and to develop ideas that lead to global competition.
It took me a few years to realize that progress and hope are visible outside of Washington. And when I did, it was like I had fallen asleep in Hong Kong and awoken in Calgary. The air is clear. The red tape has been cut. Stagnation has ceased. I am no longer chasing change, it's chasing me.