- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

Move over, baby boomers and Gen-Xers.

The "Millennials" have arrived, a generation that will enthusiastically embrace law and order, teamwork, morality, diversity and problem-solving.

This cohort, born between 1982 and 2002, "will entirely recast the image of youth from downbeat and alienated to upbeat and engaged with potentially seismic consequences for America," say Neil Howe and William Strauss in their new book, "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation."

The Millennials, who were "wanted" when they were born and raised at a time when children were welcomed and protected, will blossom as a "can-do," "powerhouse" generation, filled with "technology planners, community shapers, institution builders and world leaders," say the authors.

They are also on target to be another American "hero" generation, filling the shoes of the now-departing "GI" generation, who set standards for civic duty, moral courage and leadership.

Some adults may think the authors are a bit breathless in their description of the next generation, but the authors are right on, according to some Millennials.

"Yes, I think we'll be a 'hero' generation. Hopefully, we won't have to save the world from tyranny, but we certainly can clean up our neighborhoods and improve the world that we have. Bit by bit. We'll be quiet heroes," says Bright Yuan, a musician and high school student from Anaheim, Calif.

"Righteous, smart and moral are all relative terms, but I think Millennials will set the standard for what will be considered righteous, smart and moral for quite some time," said Chris Loyd, a freshman and architecture major at San Antonio College in Texas.

"Millennials will be a very positive force reshaping American life. They will likely produce a slew of great presidents, business leaders and scientists," says Michael Eliason, an economics major at Rowan University in New Jersey.

Proof of these expectations won't be seen until 2012, when the first Millennials become governors and other political leaders, when the eldest ones turn 30.

But the cultural dominance of this group which may be the first 100-million-member generation in U.S. history should be unmistakable by 2007. This giant of a generation has been created by a resurgent fertility rate and the large families of a record immigration boost.

How will this new group express itself? With protests, bra-burnings and sit-ins like the baby boomers? With grunge, angst and raves like the Gen-Xers?

No, the Millennials will rebel by behaving better than these elders, say the authors. Mr. Howe is a history and economics scholar and policy consultant, and Mr. Strauss is widely known for his founding of the Capitol Steps, a political cabaret group, and the "Cappies," a high school theater awards program.

"There are good reasons why Millennials are growing up to embody a sharp break from Gen-X youth trends and a direct reversal of boomer youth trends," the authors said in a recent interview at Mr. Strauss' home in Northern Virginia.

In American culture, each generation seeks to solve problems that the prior youth generation failed to resolve, they said.

Second, each generation seeks to correct the behavioral excesses it sees in the previous generations. Thirdly, it seeks to fill the vacuum left by the eldest generation.

In the Millennials' case, they will answer the Gen-X generation's social splintering and alienation with high standards, teamwork and civic service.

They also will rebel against the middle-aged baby boomers' narcissism, impatience and argumentative bent by emphasizing community, patience, trust and action instead of talk.

The vacuum the Millennials will strive to fill is the one left by the heroes of the GI generation, who weathered the Depression and World War II. The word "hero" attaches most naturally to these older people and to today's teens, rather than to the other generations, says Mr. Strauss.

So, how will the next generation view sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and TV? What about politics will Millennials vote, and what will they vote for?

Change is coming in all these areas, say the authors and certain Millennials who agreed to be interviewed by e-mail, naturally.

For instance, baby boomer-style "love the one you're with" promiscuity is out. Modesty, romance and saving sex for marriage, or at least for someone really special, is in.

It's the Millennials who are helping to drive down the rates of teen pregnancies, births and abortions, says Mr. Howe.

"Sex is definitely joked about a lot, and it's the subject of much amusement and blushing, but rarely anything more than that," says Bright, 17.

"The premarital sex phenomenon is in decline… . What you are seeing is a return to more traditional forms of romance and a richer emphasis on relationships, rather than sex," says Mr. Eliason, the New Jersey freshman.

Drug use should also decline, they say.

Raves and "club drugs" are leftovers from the Generation X crowd, but they're not "genuine" parts of a Millennial culture and should fade, says Mr. Eliason. "[Millennials are] simply too busy to go to raves," says Mr. Loyd.

Drugs "are for the reckless," says Miss Yuan. And while there are peers "who want to take part in that crap," she says, the best way to handle the problem is more education.

As for rock 'n' roll, many Millennials say they like "oldies" rock, just like their parents. But they are also the ones pushing team-oriented bands like Destiny's Child, 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys to the top of the charts, say the authors.

Not every teen adores the boy bands. "Give me U2 or classical music any day," says Bright.

But it's unanimous that shock rockers like Marilyn Manson and shock rappers like Eminem get the eject button. The former is "quite lame. Not even that original," and the latter is "nothing but hype," declares Mr. Loyd.

Millennials may also be the first generation to unhook themselves from the TV.

Compared with Gen-X youth, Millennials watched TV two hours less a day, say the authors, citing research out of the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research. Instead, Millennials spent more time on school activities, chores, organized sports, computer activities and reading.

Mr. Loyd's opinion of TV is that it's "heading down the crap shoot" because of the lack of interesting programming. Sitcoms, in particular, "are heading the way of vaudeville," he says, adding that the last good one was "Seinfeld."

Even mighty MTV may have to scramble if it wants to hear a new generation calling its name. "The biggest complaint about MTV is (1) too many commercials, (2) not enough videos and (3) too many stupid shows," said Mr. Loyd.

Politically, Millennials are likely to be socially conservative, eschewing liberal individualism. However, they are likely to prefer liberal-style economics using taxes and regulations to clean up pollution and unions to ensure a fair workplace.

And, unlike previous generations, "Millennials will vote," Mr. Strauss said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide