What Happens When Millennials Come Together
Crises are everywhere we turn, leaders have abdicated their responsibilities around the globe, and by most objective standards there is a huge mess growing bigger and bigger that is being left for my generation -- the millennial generation -- to clean up. This generation is ready to step up to the challenge. We're eager to solve problems and address challenges in our communities, countries, and around the world.
We're a generation of pragmatic idealists, eager to bring about big change, but realizing it can only be done with a pragmatic approach. Politicians like to use the phrase "we have to do this for the young people" as a way to urge their fellow politicians to act, but the millennials are ready to start acting today. In fact we've already started.
Millennials have been organizing online and offline for years, but more and more they are gathering specifically to try and tackle these problems. They were brought together in this way just a few weeks ago at the second edition of a conference called One Young World in Zurich, Switzerland. Over 1200 young people from 170 countries, including countries often underrepresented at global gatherings like Iran, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia, all came together ready to share, collaborate and solve.
There's an overabundance of conferences, summits, and self-described world-changer clubs. And I've been to many of them... But I think many of them could be replaced with this one. Did the conference end in solutions to all our world's problems? No. But two things made this event valuable to the 1200 young people who participated and potentially to the world. It is truly the only global youth summit, and the only one that brings together not just leaders but also regular citizens. The mere act of young leaders and citizens from all over the world, meeting, connecting, and working in concert, could tip the balance of some of our most pressing global challenges.
One Young World is representative of something I think we'll see a lot more of (whether organized or informal). This generation has come of age in a rapidly globalizing world. We're comfortable with it and we are excited about it. In the wake of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there has been a great deal of discussion about the impact of the attacks on the millennial generation, the climate of fear it created. But while many of our older counterparts reacted to these events by becoming isolationist, millennials have embraced the need to globalize, and have become the first generation of truly global citizens. We're the first generation to spend all of our grown years in a world where connecting to people from all over the world, instantly and constantly, seems normal and natural.
And so, movements of young people all over the world are connected. While we may not be organizing on a specific issue together, we draw inspiration from each other.
One of the highlights of the event was a conversation between Oscar Morales (who created the Facebook group One Million Voices Against FARC in 2006, which began the collapse of the Colombian terrorist network FARC) and Wael Ghonim (the Google executive who created a Facebook page called We are All Khaled Said in 2010, which began the Egyptian revolution). The two met at One Young World for the first time, but they'd always been "together." They are members of a generation fighting the same fight, taking advantage of the tools they know so well, offering a fresh approach to long-standing forces in their respective countries.
There are hardly any problems today that aren't global problems from the environment to the economy-our world is becoming more and more interdependent. We can only confront these issues globally and in solidarity, and where our older leaders have failed, millennials are joining hands across the world to step up to the plate.
David D. Burstein is a Millennial writer and activist and the Executive Director of Generation18.
This article was originally published in the Huffington Post. It is reprinted here with permission.