If anyone still thinks this Millennial generation is, as the media so often puts it, a bunch of spoiled slackers, there's "Think 2040" standing a clear rebuke.
Think 2040 is the vision that this generation has for the future. Organized by Roosevelt's Campus Network--the nation's largest student policy organization--more than 2,000 young people have created a shared vision for 2040, as outlined in "A Blueprint for the Millennial America."
Coming together in focus groups over the course of several months, Think 2040 participants mapped out their key concerns for the future and what to do about it. The resulting blueprint reflects this generation's deeply held concern for equity, respect for individuals, belief in community empowerment and self-determination.
High on their list is for the United States to continue to be a moral beacon for the world. This requires the US to fight global warming and work for greater social equity on many levels.
Starting at home, they want to reform the social safety net to a trampoline. They want to create a system that gives displaced workers the tools to bounce back after layoffs and retrenchment by lowering barriers to entrepreneurship, combatting intergenerational poverty, and rethinking our tax policies.
Reflecting their status as the most diverse generation, they want to rethink immigration policy to better retain the most talented students from abroad and efficiently funnel them to the top jobs. They also want to reframe the conversation we have about immigration to a more positive one, which reflects the many benefits that immigrants bring to these shores--and in doing so, bind us together rather than creating a second-class citizen tier.
They also want to ensure more equity by reducing the influence of money in politics.They want to give labor a larger voice, and they want to restore the vote to the disenfranchised, including felons. They also want to reduce the gap in educational outcomes between groups and make college more affordable.
Not surprising, given the state of the economy today, this generation is worried for their futures. They call for reforms that can reduce federal and household debt. A first start is reducing health care costs by focusing more on prevention--with, for example, programs to prevent obesity and diabetes. They also want to raise taxes on the wealthiest and reduce the cost of entitlement programs by restructuring the safety net.
Still reeling from the banking meltdown--a generational "where were you when Kennedy was assassinated" moment if there ever was one--they want banking reform. They want to limit bank size, regulate shadow banking industry, reform executive pay, and reform bankruptcy laws.
They also want to rebuild the country's infrastructure in a more "green" and sustainable way and to support and expand the information-based economy.
To accomplish these goals, Millennials begin locally. This is not a generation waving the "let's change the world" banner. They do not tilt at windmills. This generation is pragmatic, and they believe firmly in "acting locally." This bottom-up philosophy, they believe, is how we spur America back to prosperity.
As the report says, "We are your children, your grandchildren, your neighbors, your co-workers, and your best bet at overcoming the 21st century challenges that we face with a comprehensive vision we can get behind, support, implement, and achieve."
I for one am already inspired.
Phase 2 starts soon, with concrete action plans. If young adults want to get involved, there's still time. Just visit www.think2040.org to join the conversation.