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Ventura County Star -   November 12, 2011

 

A Generation Entitled to Idealism

By Ruben Navarrette

I've often said that the so-called Millennial Generation born between 1982 and 2003 and parented by baby boomers and Generation Xers has a strong sense of entitlement.
I'm not the only one. Talk to employers, college professors, human resource managers, high school teachers or anyone else who deals on a regular basis with teenagers and 20-somethings. Many of them feel the same way.
So imagine my surprise when I recently sat down with a pair of authors who have written a couple of books on Millennials, and they told me I was wrong and so is everyone else.
In their new book, Millennial Momentum: How a New Generation Is Remaking America, Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais explore the many ways in which this generation of Americans is impacting everything from politics to pop culture.
"We don't argue that Millennials have a sense of entitlement," Winograd told me. "That is a very common complaint about the generation. But almost inevitably, that's a Gen Xer thinking: 'Hey, I had to fight for everything I got. My parents didn't give me anything. I couldn't even find them. They were always working. And now these kids today are pampered and they expect things to be just a certain way.'"
Well, speaking as a Gen Xer, I had to ask: Isn't this true? No, the authors said, it isn't.
"Millennials don't think of themselves as entitled," Winograd said. "They think they're having a conversation, like they would with their parents. They're negotiating. They're not thinking the world owes them an entitlement. They just think they have a right to argue for what they want which strikes everyone else as entitlement."
At this point, his co-author jumped in.
"And they think they should be treated as equals by their parents and the rest of us," Hais said. "It's not that they expect any particular outcome. They just think: 'We should work this out, and everyone will be happy. That's how you raised me.'"
In fact, the authors insist, about the only place that expectations come into play is when Millennials expect their elders to live up to their rhetoric.
"They're so used to following the rules," Winograd said. "They're so earnest that they take people at their word. If you say something, then they think you must really mean it.
"Whereas the Xers say: 'It's all a con. You gotta look for the hidden meanings in what someone is saying so you know why they're saying it.'"
I had to laugh. These guys may be experts on Millennials, but they also have my generation figured out.
Of course, we Xers are cynics. What did you expect? We got our first civics lesson when the cartoon hour was interrupted by the Watergate hearings. Then came the Iran hostage crisis, skyrocketing inflation, long lines at gas stations, the Challenger shuttle explosion, Iran-Contra, etc.
But guess what? We were right. It is all a con. In politics, or business, or whatever the field, if you want to know what's going on, you have to follow the money.
Millennials are a lot more idealistic. They actually look for solutions to tough problems, and they think solutions are possible in any environment.
"They see government as an institution that ... they want to believe in," Hais said. "It may fail. It may not be doing what they want it to do, but they really believe that it can be made to be a force for good in society."
Winograd agreed and offered a generational comparison.
"Boomers have always seen it as their mission in life to change government to fit their values, whatever those values are," he said. "Xers don't trust government. They see it as the enemy, so their instinct is to limit its size, scope and power.
"Most Millennials would rather see a government with more services even if it is bigger, rather than a government, with less services that is too small to get things done."
Hais added: "By the way, it's the only generation that says that."
I'm not surprised. Wait until these kids start working full time and paying taxes. They'll figure out soon enough that big government is expensive, and that you never get what you pay for.
Let's see how idealistic they are then.





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