A letter to my sons, students and others in the millennial generation….

millenialsDear sons, SAIS students (present and former), nephews and nieces, daughters-in-law, and all of your friends, and others of the millennial generation who enjoy the right to vote in next Tuesday’s American election,

Over the years, I have come to appreciate deeply the way your generation blends idealism with pragmatism as to how things actually are. From the first, your world has been  incomparably more open and multicultural than it was  for those of us of the sixties, baby boom generation. For you, the insight has come naturally that the way  to thrive within diversity  is, not to deny difference and disagreement, but to hold conflict within a larger container of co-operation.

Startlingly, old forces of divisiveness, forces many of us had believed had long receded into  the past,  are again running rampant. They threaten a downward spiral of disaster which would destroy  the world of inclusion around which you are building your lives.

Perhaps you’re not filled with enthusiasm with the prospect of embracing Hillary Clinton as the champion of (y)our future. But that’s the way things are — and as someone of her generation, I don’t doubt her deep commitment to an open, inclusive world. Catherine Rampell, one of the best of a new generation of columnists, captures nicely your dilemma in the column linked here. How, she asks, can one,inspire millennials to vote when our primary political vessel represents not volatility and upheaval, but boring stability?

“Not rocking the boat, but keeping it from crashing into an iceberg? ‘Steady as she goes’ is hardly a compelling campaign slogan for any age group. But it is an especially poor fit for the insurrectionist, get-out-the-vote rhetoric usually used to woo young people to the polls…… The great danger right now is that millennials won’t vote at all. We will express our political frustrations with the system not by trying to upend it — as so many get-out-the-vote efforts of eras past urged us to do — but by abstaining altogether……. Analyses of Brexit votes, showed that those who had to live longest with the decision — i.e., young people — were most likely to vote “Remain.” And yet youths also had the lowest voter turnout rates of any demographic. So “Remain” lost…..A vote for keeping it together may [not feel] cathartic. But it’s better than not voting at all…” (and then waking up the next morning to discover that forces of rage and prejudice had risen, vampire-like to take over the American government…….).

But perhaps catharsis is the way it worked for the sixties generation, but not for you. My sense is that you see better than we did  that a sober-minded commitment to holding the center is precisely what is needed as the platform for everything else. Regardless, the implication is the same: Please VOTE – and, using all the many tools of communication which you have available, please do everything in your power to get as many of your generation as you can to do the same.

With no illusions — but  continued, determined hope,

Brian

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