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Marching into a New Generation

2017 has been marked by an influx of poltical demonstrations. In 2016, 3.6 million Baby Boomers retired, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce and Gen Z started entering the professional scene. How are the current generational shifts affecting our poltical landscape?

Never marched in a political demonstration? Well, it appears that 2017 is the year to step outside your comfort zone and march in solidarity with like-minded individuals. Starting with the Women’s March in January, we’ve witnessed numerous demonstrations on both sides of the isle. Last weekend, the March for Science drew 40,000 in D.C., 40,000 in Chicago, 20,000 in New York and 10,000 in London, as well as thousands in cities across the world.

While it had a smaller turnout than the Women’s March and the March for Life, the March for Science was part of a much larger transition. This year, for that matter, marks a new era. People who have never previously participated in political demonstrations are getting involved. Social media is providing virtual hubs for people to express their views and disseminate those opinions to the masses. What is it about 2017 that has brought forth so much uprising?

In 2016, 3.6 million Baby Boomers retired, Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce and Gen Z started entering the professional scene. It’s hard to discuss this political shift, including one of the most contentious political campaigns in history, without including the generational shift. Both the first female candidate on the democratic side and a businessman without a political background on the republican side prove the desire for something new. Saying, “this is the way things have always been done” is no longer resonating with the incoming generations, as there is a hunger for change, a desire for something new and an upswell of people who aren’t afraid to demand it.

We recently interviewed a Millennial who participated in some of this uprising, most recently the March for Science. Jennifer Owens is in her mid-twenties, has a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and is currently working remotely as a program manager for SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), based in Bloomington, Minnesota.

When asked why she marched, she said,“I marched in solidarity with people from all professional backgrounds who support the scientific process and have a shared concern about the direction the new administration is headed. It’s alarming and disheartening when our highest body of governance blatantly ignores the facts in favor of an alternative reality that better supports it’s worldview. I can’t help but think what a privileged behavior this is. The privilege of ignoring truth because you’re not directly affected or negatively impacted.”

In the age of transparency, the Millennials are no longer standing on the sideline while the new leaders take charge, they are instead taking charge. There is a widespread demand for leaders to share more of what is happening behind the scenes, in what we’ve dubbed this the “sharing economy”. It doesn’t stop with AirBnB and Uber, no, Millennials are demanding more information about the places they work and the people who lead their cities, states and country.

It’s also easier than ever to spread news (real or fake) like wildfire. For the first time in history, the term “alternative facts” has become mainstream and “fake news” has permeated the political process at the highest level. Not surprisingly, Millennials are not simply willing to stand by and trust their leaders, without some kind of give and take of information. Wracked by change and disruption, the Millennial generation has ranked trust as one of the most important qualities in their leaders. So, it’s not surprising that science, a proven method for uncovering facts and thus creating “trust”, became a platform for demanding more transparency from our highest leaders.

“Those of my generation who are paying attention think this cause shouldn’t even be a cause. We’re frustrated. We’re angry. We shouldn’t have to be marching in support of science, truth, and reason because these are all ideas that were settled hundreds of years ago – or so we thought.” stated Owens. “But we got off our butts last weekend, we made signs, and we marched. We marched to support smart policy decisions, based on science, evidence and facts, that will make the lives of our people better for generations to come. We marched against the trend of anti-intellectualism and the normalization of ignorance. We marched because we understood the stakes and that saying nothing would be far worse.”

She continued to tell us “the experience was empowering. It’s a reminder that you’re not alone and that the power lies within us. It lies within our voices, in our actions, in our consumer habits, and all other aspects of life. If we keep demanding truth, if we stay curious and demand evidence, we can’t fail.”

As our conversation came to a close, Jennifer shared her “hope that we demonstrated to our nation’s leaders that we care about facts, we care about science, we care about the environment and climate change, and we aren’t going to simply fall in line. Now that the march is over, we need to keep having these conversations in our own networks, pay attention to what’s going on in Congress, and follow legislation that’s going to affect the marginalized or those without a voice. All of this matters now more than ever. RESIST”

The “resist” slogan, seen widely during the Women’s March and again in the March for Science, is intriguing by itself. Yes, there is a left-leaning “resistance” dedicated to the current president, but there is something more to this. The influx and diversity at every political movement during the last year may be marking a shift in “left versus right” altogether.

So, is this generation, the Millennials, resisting the “way it’s always been done” and shifting towards breaking down the old hierarchy?


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