By Hilary Doe, Director, Roosevelt Institute Campus Network
Millennials are the largest generation in American history, constituting 33% of the eligible electorate by 2016. As Millennials come into their own — beginning families, forming their political beliefs, launching their careers — America is mired in a deep economic recession, forcing all of us to reflect on the future that we will inherit. In response, young people are coming together to chart a path out of this mess, by designing Blueprint for the Millennial America. We are building a vision for the country that is reflective of our shared priorities and our unique experience — and we’re already taking action to make our vision a reality for the future. We are leveraging our unique generational characteristics, transforming our communities nationwide, and redefining the America’s economic identity and the American Dream.
What do the reports from the President’s Fiscal Commission, and all the competing budget plans teach us? Americans are searching for answers to questions about our economic future. The recession, heightened economic insecurity, and a changing world keep us asking, “What will the period of American economic growth look like?” How will we strengthen our country’s fiscal future while investing in our people? What types of jobs will displaced autoworkers find? Who will invest in new companies and Americans’ ideas? Commentators like David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, and Joe Stiglitz have put forth their visions. Deficit hawks, social security advocates, and now, even the President’s Fiscal Commission have weighed in. The truth is, however, that new workers, entrepreneurs, and leaders will be the ones to define our future in new terms. And the generation of Americans that stands to inherit the consequences of our actions has put forth a plan of their own.
A movement of young people nationwide convened in communities across the country and online to articulate their values, their priorities, and provide concrete answers to the questions about the American economy, as well as American education, energy policy, foreign policy, our democracy, social justice, and health care. Through the Roosevelt’s Campus Network’s Think 2040 program, thousands have contributed to a shared vision for 2040 — A Blueprint for Millennial America. The Blueprint paints a vision of an America that invests in jobs and infrastructure, that curbs the federal debt, and that strengthens a flexible social safety “trampoline” to better respond to the 21st century challenges we all face.
Think 2040 participants identified rising debt, economic instability, and chronic unemployment as key challenges to address. The Blueprint highlights key priorities for America’s future to rebound and eventually flourish. In order for every American to have the opportunity to thrive, we must build a “trampoline” society that bounces people who fall behind back to economic stability, through fostering entrepreneurship, increased community ownership, and a reformed banking system. Millennials want to start with local change, which embodies their bottom-up philosophy toward spurring America back to prosperity.
Best of all, in communities nationwide, young people are already working to achieve their Millennial America, remaking America’s economic identity. Local economies have always shaped the American dream. Even in this “information age,” local endeavors are at the center of youth efforts to reshape America’s future.
This community-focused approach stands at the core of the Roosevelt Campus Network’s mission to engage, empower, and promote the next generation of progressive leaders. Through the Roosevelt Campus Network, the nation’s largest student policy organization, young people engage identify challenges in their cities, states, and nation, then campaign around their own policy solutions to solve them — a sort of grassroots, student-driven think tank that fosters the next generation of American activists and thought-leaders.
The bottom line: Millennials are speaking for themselves about the future that they want to inherit. We are looking to our leaders to listen. We are looking to our communities, America’s thought-leaders, and activists for guidance and support as we pursue our vision. We are hoping to learn from the past, build toward the future, and design an America reflective of our values and our priorities. 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.
Read our vision at Roosevelt’s Think 2040: Blueprint for the Millennial America and contribute your voice to the conversation at www.think2040.org
Contributors: Manpriya Samra, Tarsi Dunlop, and Zachary Kolodin