The new publishing sensation, Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais's Millennial Momentum, is working its way up the best-seller lists with its analysis of the Millennials -- this huge generation of Americans, over 80 million strong, whose influence in the 2008 election gave Obama a mandate for change. This is the generation born from 1982-2003, in other words the oldest are just 29, and more of them, over half, will be able to vote in 2012.
The authors refer to this huge generation, which will be 34 percent of the population in 2020, as the "civic" generation, as opposed, for example, of the so-called idealist generation of the '60s -- the generation that started out to change the world, but who turned on and tuned out by the crisis of the Vietnam War. The Beatles gave them "Let It Be" and as a generation their idealism melted away.
Having delivered the 2008 election to Obama, the Millennials are in a position to do the same in 2012. The question is, will they? The change they voted for was nearly destroyed by the financial catastrophe generated by the ME generation on Wall Street, who in many cases are the parents of the Millennials.
The only positive outcome of this continuing crisis is a clear and dramatic demonstration of what happens to a country when a privileged few decide to take what they can get and let the rest of us be damned. Our founders knew that if we didn't all hang together then we would hang separately. The Millennials know this and they are using the technological innovations of the past 20 years to transform themselves and the country, binding us together as never before.
As an Emerson scholar, one of a very few and little known company, I have watched this nation he loved so much suffer from its terrible errors and daring accomplishments. Emerson said throughout his work that "America is opportunity," and he knew that it was the task of a central government to create a level playing field for every American so that opportunities were there for those who worked hard and played by the rules.
The Tea Party Republicans don't believe in a level playing field for all Americans. For them, America is freedom, that is, freedom from any responsibility for others or policies which create opportunity and support, like health care for everyone. As Winograd and Hais point out, however, the Millennials are civic-minded and are searching for ways to change and improve how government and institutions meet the challenges we face.
It is clear that this dynamic generation of young Americans will change America, and they will do it in dramatic fashion. Those if us set in our ways and afraid of change will have to step aside, hold on and adjust. But, and this is crucial, if the Millennials stay home in November 2012, the momentum that Winograd and Hais are championing will grind to a halt, or, to use a more millennial term, suffer a catastrophic system failure.
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