Recently, I heard radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt interview Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais about their book “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, You Tube, and the Future of American Politics”. As Winograd and Hais outlined distinctive differences between the Millennial Generation and the Baby Boom Generation, my fellow Baby Boomer’s (Hewitt’s) reaction was to repeatedly say “Omigosh!”
Not long before I heard Hewitt’s interview, another fellow Baby Boomer directed me to the CBS News Website for a Morley Safer 60 Minutes segment entitled “The ‘Millennials’ Are Coming”. Maybe it’s the result of this Morley coming from the Silent Generation (a step closer to being from the GI Generation – aka The Greatest Generation), that led to him mostly just having his mouth gaping open, unable even to utter the expression “Omigosh!”, as he listened to emerging “experts” detail strategies for how to appropriately deal with the unconventional behavior of Millennials.
I think the most ridiculous reaction I’ve heard on this came from the authors of “Millennial Makeover: MySpace, You Tube, and the Future of American Politics”, themselves, when they likened the differences between Boomers and Millennials to the differences between Moses’ Generation and Joshua’s Generation. The authors’ assertion is that Boomers and Moses’ Generation were/are idealists while Millennials and Joshua’s Generation were/are civic-minded. Not only is this ridiculous, it’s Biblically inaccurate.
Though I do find these reactions to be ridiculous, that’s not to say that they’re not natural. In fact, they don’t seem to be that different from the reactions that my generation, the Baby Boomers, received from the GI Generation in the 60s and 70s.
When Hewitt posed the question, “What do they want?”, the Winograd/Hais answers were, “Wonderful family life…life that is filled with the riches of interpersonal relationships, and that has enough income so that they aren’t pressured enough on the income side … They want to leave America in better condition than they found it.” That’s not something that makes me want to say “Omigosh!” It makes me want to say “Amen Brother!”
When Morley Safer asked Wall Street Journal Columnist, Jeffrey Zaslow, who to “blame” for Millennials being such “narcissistic praise hounds”, he points to TV’s Mister Rogers and says, “He was telling his preschoolers, ‘You’re special. You’re special.’ And he meant well. But we, as parents, ran with it. And we said, ‘You, Junior, are special, and you’re special and you’re special and you’re special.’ And for doing what? We didn’t really explain that.” Zaslow may be right but, to me, it all sounded a bit familiar. Aren’t we, the Baby Boom Generation, the ones who fell in love with Garrison Keillor telling us about Lake Wobegon, “Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average”?
Since the Millennials … aka Generation Y … aka the Echo Boomers … are the largest generation in American history … approximately 1 million more than the Baby Boomers … of course, they are a serious force to be reckoned with. But, hyperventilating while repeating the expression “Omigosh!” doesn’t seem appropriate. In fact, that sort of reaction will most likely result in widening the chasm between the Millennial Generation and its predecessors. And, by the way, there are reactions in the opposite direction that are just as counterproductive. When a Millennial sees a 60-year-old face; assumes that this is a person who can’t grasp the concept of Social Networking, Blogging, Wikis, RSS, Twitter, etc. and deals with that person based on that assumption; that widens the chasm too. What is needed is for both generations to recognize how much they have to offer each other and if the chasm must remain, at least to build a bridge across it.
From my perspective, the greatest value Baby Boomers have to offer Millennials is what I call “A Great Wealth of Wisdom.” My generation was lavished, more than any other, with education. Moreover, we were raised by the GI Generation, who instilled us with a great work ethic. That meant, not only did we get a great education, we actually went out and tried to accomplish everything we could with that resource and in the process, grew the resource by honing it with experience to create … “A Great Wealth of Wisdom.” Sadly, though, if we don’t find a way to transfer this “Great Wealth”, IT WILL DIE WITH US!
But, wait a minute! Doesn’t this “Great Wealth” sound like just the right resource for Millennials to add to what they already have, to attain what Winograd and Hais say they want? – i.e. “Wonderful family life…life that is filled with the riches of interpersonal relationships, and that has enough income so that they aren’t pressured enough on the income side … They want to leave America in better condition than they found it.” And, didn’t I say that hearing this makes me want to say, “Amen Brother!”? I did and when my fellow Baby Boomers get the chance to consider this, without the hyperbole added by those promoting their newly formed cultural consulting companies or their books or their radio shows or their TV programs, I believe the majority will react as I did. That, in fact, means that both generations want the same thing – i.e “…to leave America in better condition than (we) found it.” Getting this done will require us to proactively connect instead of reactively separating. I say, “What are we waiting for?!” When you consider that connecting these generations results in forming a team made up of people who are all “special” and “above average”, there’s no reason for us not to attain this goal that we owe the future of the nation that we’re blessed to live in.