By Johnnie Moore, The Washington Post, 10/24/2011
I was in one of those invitation-only meetings you’re not supposed to know about. A handful of influencers convened in a secluded location to meet privately with a person who could very well be a future leader of our nation. More often than not, at 28, I’m the youngest person in the room for these sorts of gatherings, sometimes by decades, and, typically, I let everyone else do the talking.
If I had asked a question, I might have asked if the person we were meeting with was actually telling us the truth because honesty doesn’t seem a prerequisite for power in America any longer, and government has fused with the worst of politics. Rhetoric has knocked off leadership, and agendas have crippled objectivity. In a word, many of our leaders are … fakes.
See, I’m a Millennial (the 80-million Americans born after 1980), and we don’t take anything at face value. We’ve been marketed-to-death from birth, and we’re nursing some serious trust issues with our nation’s leaders.
Millenials have reason to be anxious about the future. We are the generation raised on Katrina, 9/11, the Great Recession, the dot com bubble, the Virginia Tech Massacre, multiple wars and fragmenting families. We have been eyewitnesses of the worst natural disaster in American History, the most devastating financial crisis since the Great Depression, the most horrifying kind of violence exercised in – of all places – the hallowed halls of higher education. The youngest among us have never known an America not at war, and the oldest among us are the most unemployed generation in America. For many of us, the Titanic seems to be taking on water.
Meanwhile, it seems abundantly clear that politics is often a chameleon sport for egomaniacs that morph from who they actually are to who they need to be in order to win for the sake of winning. Long gone are the days of citizen legislators who entered into public life for a season of service. These days’ politicians are more often serving themselves than their nation, and they bicker for the sake of bickering.
Republicans are blaming the Democrats, and Democrats are blaming the Republicans, the tea party is blaming the establishment, and Occupy Wall Street is blaming the free market. None are willing to blame themselves.
This is not the behavior of a free, sensible nation. Our leaders must remember that they’re spending from the coffers of America’s future generations. They are drawing credit on our dreams and on our opportunities.
We’ve had our fill of it, and America’s leaders can’t afford to ignore us. See, we occupy the largest social demographic in North America, even larger than the Boomer and Gen X’ers that came before us, and we are not only of future relevance to America. We are of present relevance. In fact, as many as 40 million of us were eligible to vote in the 2008 election, and more of us will be in play in 2012.
Like most young Americans, I simply want to know that we have a place at the table, and that our leaders are making noble, rational decisions that take our future into account. These days we’re lucky if sanity alone shows her face within the beltway.
Ronald Reagan, who was elected president before I was born, told the graduates of the University of Notre Dame in 1981, “each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known.”
I’m not sure Reagan could say this today.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Young Americans are pleading with our leaders to wake up lest, in the words of Winston Churchill, “a great ship sinks in a calm sea.” Millenials want one thing in government – leaders they can trust.