I first noticed you across a crowded room. A convention center actually, where thousands of you turned out to support a most atypical candidate for President of the United States. The candidate is not particularly charismatic or polished in the way we’ve come to expect our aspiring presidents to be, but that did not deter you. You were clearly listening to the message, to the values he expressed. And I was impressed. Encouraged. Okay, let’s be honest; I was exhilarated. Not just by the message delivered by the speaker, but by the message conveyed by your presence in such huge numbers and with such energy and passion. This is where I first took serious notice of you and I’ve been watching you ever since.
You, as a generation, are atypical yourselves. You are the most educated generation so far, and the most diverse. Both details give me cause for optimism, even in these less-than-optimistic times. And I think perhaps your generation and my own (I am a Boomer) have more in common that you might think.
My generation stopped a war, unseated a president, started two civil rights movements, and launched a sexual revolution. I have witnessed firsthand what a sustained, robust social movement can do. It can dramatically shift the direction and the priorities of a society. It happened in the 60’s and 70’s when circumstances were such that young people rejected the status quo. It can happen again. In that era, we too had an endless and unpopular war fueled by lies and propaganda; we had police brutality and abuse of African American citizens; we had a president and a Congress that did not represent the will of the people, and we had courageous activists and whistleblowers who insured that we knew it.
Today, regrettably, many of those same conditions exist, and some of those conditions have grown worse. Today we have multiple unpopular wars “justified” by propaganda and lies. Today African Americans are not just beaten by police; they are killed in our streets. Today we again have a government that is unresponsive to the will of the people. We also have today a number of issues that were not part of that earlier revolution: climate change; soaring college costs; elections that can be bought (or stolen); and an unsustainable imbalance in wealth and income. Circumstances have, again, become intolerable, and I truly believe that your generation has the courage, the commitment and the capacity to once again shift our society in new and better directions. But it won’t be easy so steel yourselves for a fight. The forces against you are entrenched and armed; they have much to lose. But so do we.
Our two generations –Millennials and Boomers – are the biggest demographic blocs today, 28% and 23% of the population, respectively. We have the numbers and we have the power, if we use it. In the upcoming elections, we, and especially you, have the most to gain and the most to lose. If we continue to ignore human-caused climate change, what will that mean for you and your children? If we continue to allow extreme income inequality, what will that mean for the future stability of this country (and the world)? If we continue to allow our elections to be bought, what will that mean for democracy? If we continue to burden young people with college debt and handicap their career prospects after graduation, what does that mean for future prosperity? We have ignored too long these, and other, pressing issues. We have allowed too long the status quo to constrain our options and our opportunities. 2016 is our best (our last?) chance to reverse the course of our country.
It has been said that when people fear their government, you have tyranny; when the government fears the people, you have liberty.
It is time to reclaim our liberty.