Millennial generation looks to overcome negative reputation

Oles – we are the future.

We are future lawyers, politicians, doctors, singers, teachers and leaders. One day, we will be the generation with the power to change things.

But we are often called the doomed generation, or Generation Y. Recently, the Millennials, a 17-year span of people born between 1982 and 1999, stepped into the spotlight. There has been a large debate about whether we are egotistic or humble.

We are too disconnected. We depend on technology for most things. We have lost respect for our elders. We would rather do something for money than for service, especially when it comes to our career choices.

We have access to the news 24 hours a day. We learn and read so many new things every day that there is no way we can remember it all. But there is no need to remember, because we have the knowledge of the world at our fingertips, literally. We are the generation that is constantly plugged in. How could we possibly run the country with any civility?

It is true that we are the generation of the Internet. I always have my phone with me, giving me constant access to anything. But does that make me isolated and disconnected? In some ways, yes. I can sit in a room with ten other people and be consumed by my phone instead of the people around me.

But technology has also brought us far. Past generations have always been unsure about the place of technology in society. In 1876, an internal memo from the Western Union announced, “this ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.” Now, we can’t picture a world without the telephone. Countries across the globe are connected. Economies thrive on commerce. A grasp of this technology opens endless doors for change.

I strongly believe we are a generation with the potential for change. We are one of the most politically engaged generations. Oles displayed this through their intense participation in the presidential elections last fall. Proponents for the “Vote No” campaign even went door to door to see if people were registered to vote and answer any questions about the election. The night of the elections, I stayed up late with a large group of friends, waiting for the poll results on the marriage amendment.

But political engagement is not the only valuable component for our generation. We need to exhibit the characteristics of leaders and followers. This past Saturday, I attended the leadership conference on campus for Residence Life staff, Student Government Association, Buntrock workers and students. It was powerful to see over 200 fellow Oles dedicate their whole Saturday to improving their leadership skills.

While we only have four precious years on the Hill, we will take everything we’ve learned with us out into the world. I’m not saying that this small population of Oles will change the world, but if we leave as leaders, maybe others will follow in our footsteps.

An article from the Atlantic, “Millennials: The Greatest Generation or the Most Narcissistic?,” said that one of the largest problems in the Millennial Generation is our lack of personal effort to improve the environment. In fact, the Boomer Generation is three times more likely than the Millennials to consciously help the environment.

Again, Oles break this norm. Both Regents Hall and Tomson Hall are green buildings. Next year, Hilleboe will be an environmentally conscious dorm. We have the Green Bikes program, the Environmental Coalition, Take Back the Tap, the Real Food movement, STOGROW, campus composts and the wind turbine. It’s safe to say that Oles are passionate about the environment. We are beyond motivated to make our dent in changing the environment. When we leave St. Olaf and disperse all over the country, or world, we can take those values with us and spread them around.

Furthermore, we are able to make a movement on campus when we see something is wrong. The new Enough! campaign emerged rapidly after multiple hate crimes occurred on campus. In no time at all, this organization was born and opened a large dialogue on our campus. With this kind of motivation in the future, we can open many more dialogues about improvements for our country as a whole.

Long term, I am unsure where the human race is headed. I believe that we have made some choices that are detrimental to our ecosystem. But I wouldn’t say the Millennials are doomed. Together, we can be leaders for change.

Katie Haggstrom ’14 haggstro@stolaf.edu is from Omaha, Neb. She majors in English.

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