An open letter to the members of my generation:
There was a heartbreaking blog post on the Washington Post website today, written by an alumnus of Penn State University, now a graduate student at The University of Chicago. (I’d suggest reading the blog post there before continuing here.) In it, he discusses his total disgust with the situation at PSU, including the failure of the administration to discipline the guilty parties correctly, and also the shameful reaction by most of the student body about the firing of Joe Paterno. But he doesn’t stop there.
He points a finger at an unlikely group he holds responsible for the events of not just Penn State, but for the conditions of the current world as a whole:
The leadership coming from the generation of our parents.
I have great admiration, affection, and respect for my parents. They are good, hard-working people who have supported me in whatever I’ve chosen to do with my life. But the paradigm embraced by the leaders who have emerged from their generation is old and tired. As a culture, we can no longer afford to let their generation lead the way. Time and time again, the leadership from the current generation has led us astray. This is a brave new world, and we are well-prepared to handle the challenges ahead.
I stand with the people of the Arab Spring movement, and the Occupy Movement. Not because they are young. I stand with them because they have taken action to remove a model that no longer serves the people for whom it was originally created. And they do what they do in a way that our generation understands well and uses constantly: social media. It is no longer a distraction or a time-waster. It is a tool of unlimited potential.
Our world is more connected every day. There are seven billion people on earth and we now all have the ability to interact. A random Twitter account, for instance, documented the strike that killed Osama Bin Laden. The generation of our leaders does not understand the level of impact this new medium has on the way the world communicates and connects and affects our perception of the events of the day.
Our generation has been called many things: naive, idealistic, whimsical. We’re dreamers. These generalizations, meant to be negative, are exactly why the responsibility to fix the problems that plague the world must now fall on us. We are brilliant, resourceful, creative, energetic, and connected, and we know how to use these abilities to shape the world around us.
This is our time. Only the young can do what the world needs. Nobody else will, and nobody else should.
In the coming days and weeks, I’ll outline how we can, will, and should change the world around us like only our generation can.