Will the election results create an existential crisis for Millennials?
For at least 50% of you, probably more, your candidate did not win. This is not a political blog. It’s about the potential cultural success of an entire generation in the wake of one of the most shocking elections in US History.
Challenges that will shape you
Strauss and Howe, authors of The Fourth Turning, identified a recurring generational cycle in American history. They believe that each generation is shaped by a formative period in early adulthood. The challenges we face as we become independent adults determine our approach to life. They suggest that in the next decade, some of society’s strongest institutions may collapse (or will be severely challenged and stressed) and that national survival will be in serious doubt. The crisis could be economic, cultural, religious, military or all of the above.
Based on what’s happening in our world, Millennials will likely face challenges in all of these categories. In case you're not sure we're in a period of change, Donald Trump just blew apart the entire Republican machine in a two-party system. Now, if you are a Millennial, you are what Howe and Strauss call the “Hero Generation.”
That’s good because the rescue of a culture does not arrive on Air Force One. It resides in the hearts, souls, passions and strengths of the 80 million of you who may not like the election results.
I hope that President Trump makes you very angry. So angry that you get involved in whatever you are passionate about. Not texts and social media posts. I mean the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-take-charge-of-the-problem kind of involved times 80 million.
Too close to see the change
You are already making more of a difference that you think. I grew up in the racist 1960’s in a blue collar Southern town. If you had told the teenaged Dave Barrs that he would one day have a child in an inter-racial marriage I wouldn’t have believed you. Fast forward several decades and I am more blessed with that reality than I could have ever imagined!
Today that is commonplace. You are more accepting of people who do not look like you than any other generation in our history. A president is not going to stop that.
Changes you won’t like
Trump will probably cut government spending in many categories and spend in some you’re not crazy about. He’ll say some things that embarrass you. But you don’t need the government’s permission to change the world one little step at a time. Imagine 80 million steps a day.
Footsteps vs. mouse clicks
If you don’t think your part matters, Bloomberg estimates that if Millennials had come out in force that Clinton could have won the election by a landslide. Standing with Standing Rock on Facebook is quick, easy and cheap. Good for the folks in the FB pictures who actually showed up for a cause that's important to them. Compare the thousands of “check-ins” with the 250,000 people who actually attended Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech in August 1963. They packed food, risked losing jobs, paid for bus tickets, rode to DC and stood in the hot sun to pave the way for an African-American President to be elected one day many decades later.
You do not need a multi-million dollar study, legislation, Congressional appropriation or approval of anyone to use your strengths and talents to serve someone or something you care about.
In the words of Tina Fey, "Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don't just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles." If you care about racial reconciliation, don’t wait for the government, your college, employer, or church committee to lead the way. Just make a new friend and be an example. Volunteer with a re-settlement organization if you care about refugees. Tutor a child whose first language is not English if you care about the treatment of Hispanics. Are you concerned about respect for women? Volunteer or donate to a battered women’s shelter or sex trafficking cause.
It’s completely understandable to feel distraught when a major shift of power doesn’t align with your values. What will make your generation Heroes is not simply to check in but to show up.
If you haven’t taken the thryver test, you should take it now and discover your strengths. Then ask yourself, “How will I plug my best strengths into work, organizations and activities that lead to the change I believe in?" To do less than that is simply to add noise to an echo chamber of people posting, snapping and tweeting the same stuff to each other.
Here’s a challenge
My wife and I give time and money to causes important to us. And today, I’ll make it more personal. I keep putting off helping my church at the Boys and Girls Club that meets the needs of under served Hispanic residents in our town. My commitment is to show up in the next two weeks and check it out. Would our work at thryver really come to a grinding halt because I take off 3 hours and check it out? Probably not.