young activists


Connected to Change: The Millennials | 

Flickr, TheeErin

The millennials

I didn’t notice it at first but there’s something pretty amazing going on with young people today. The Millennials, aka Gen Y.

They are socially motivated. They are globally connected. They don’t just want change. They see it as necessary to their, our, survival.

Yeah, I know someone is always saying that there’s something unique, or special even, about the up-and-coming generation. Such categorization, age-based compartmentalization, can be tiresome.

We all know about the Baby Boomers, my generation, and that they still think they’re special. My parents came in just at the tale end of the so-called Greatest Generation — so called largely because they actually didn’t appear to think they were special at all. They just buckled down and got the job done.

Let’s face it: Trying to generalize about a group of people who just happen to be the same age is a pretty risky business. Most Baby Boomers don’t seem that special to me. And not everyone in the Greatest Generation was that great.

To look at the Millennials (see photo above), you might on first glance think they are just engaging in the latest version — though more digitized — of the same old American lifestyle of consumerism, self-centered careerism, a sense of privilege and the national pastime of generally ignoring what’s happening in the rest of the world.

Chances are, you would be wrong.

At least, that’s what I have discovered as a journalist covering matters of global health, global poverty and development in and around Seattle. I am constantly running into the most amazing young people!

As the book Generation We put it:

The Millennials are a special generation, potentially the greatest generation ever. They are not pessimistic or vengeful. Rather, they are sober in their view of the world. They believe in technology and know they can innovate themselves out of the mess they are inheriting. They believe in entrepreneurship and collective action, and that each person can make a difference. They are about plenitude, and they reject cruelty. They are spiritual, responsible, tolerant, and in many ways more mature than their predecessor generations. They reject punditry and bickering, because they are post-partisan, post-ideological, and post-political. Most important, they believe in the greater good and are ready to dedicate themselves to achieving it.

Today, and for the next few days, I’m going to describe some of these people. It’s an arbitrary selection and in no way represents everything going on even in our community. But it will give you a sense of what I claim is, in fact, a pretty special generation — and a group of people keenly aware of their connection to a changing world.

The Millennials.

Let me know if you know of a global Millennial. Post a comment, or your own story.

Why young people are flocking to global health and poverty – a series preview | 

For the past few weeks I’ve been talking to young people, mostly around Seattle, who are involved in global poverty issues. And I’m blown away by the number of initiatives being pursued by people in their 20′s and early 30′s.

freestylee/Michael Thompson/flickr

  • A fellow heading to Mongolia to work on microfinance
  • A young Bengali couple who have started an organization to fund smaller projects that often get ignored
  • A woman who plans to work at the International Criminal Court on women’s issues

Others have noted this before, but my conversations have certainly shown it’s true: There’s something special about this generation, Gen-Y or the Millennials. They are much more internationally aware than many of their older cousins or parents, and they are very socially motivated. Whether it’s starting a business or working through a non-profit, they want to have a social impact.

I’ve written about the networking that’s happening in Seattle, creating more of a shared sense of effort or momentum, through the “Party with a Purpose.” I think the individual stories, of young people who’ve not only gotten involved but are making real progress, are more powerful. Stay tuned (and click on the “Millennials” link for more stories).