By Ellen Foley Special to Channel 3000
Is there a 20-something living in his or her parents' attic or basement in a neighborhood near you? Is he or she waiting for a call from Hollywood or President Obama rather than taking that boring job at the local retail center?
You'd better be nice to him or her because the future of our country relies on these young people called the Millennials and the weather report is not great.
Two recent but somewhat contradictory reports on the generation born after 1980 gave me caution and provoked a great deal of empathy for the Millennials.
These are the children of the Baby Boomers. They are confident, conversant and they learned to write their resumes in middle school. Many of them were labeled gifted; all of them got prizes at the birthday party games. Now 18 to 29 years old, these Americans steeped in self-esteem are thought to be the most educated in our history. Everything about their lives has told them that they are "special."
Except for the economy. The wild ride of the Great Recession has crimped this generation's confidence and optimism about the future. The Millennials are not sure if their helicopter parents like my husband and me can bail them out of the coming chronic unemployment predicted by Don Peck in a recent The Atlantic article, "How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America."
Their concern is well taken. I'm not sure we can. We are holding on to our own jobs as tightly as we can after we saw our retirement savings plummet in the stock market nosedive. We need to stop paying tuition and start saving for the cost of our post-retirement uninsured health care predicted to top $197,000, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. If you include nursing home care, we?re talking $250,000 for a married couple.
Peck?s article describes the Millennials as floundering in this unexpected sea of economic disappointment that he predicts will last many years. In addition, he cites authors who conclude that many Millennials? heavily scheduled childhoods robbed them of the leadership or problem-solving skills to survive the coming uncertain times.
The small group of students in the journalism class that I teach at Madison College were outraged by Peck?s article and his sources. How dare oldsters use such a broad brush on their future achievements! I loved their spunk that defied Peck?s dour vision of our nation?s future. Luckily, that same week the Pew Research Center issued a similar report with a much more upbeat tact.
Yes, the Millennials were probably disadvantaged by all that talk of how "special" they were. And yes, almost 40 percent are jobless, a record for this age group in more than three decades.
Yet they are confident. They believe they will reach their career goals, according to the Pew study. They define themselves through their almost instinctive use of technology and maybe that facility will help them find an answer for the many problems of terrorism, war and global inequities all too familiar to the 24/7 cable news generation.
Even the Pew folks tumbled to how "special" the Millennials are by offering a quiz to help us old people rate ourselves in relation to this next cohort of emerging leaders. You'll lose points of you don?t have multiple piercings or if you attend a church, temple or mosque. I got 47 percent. I am pretty sure my two Millennial darlings will get at least 100 percent. They are that special. LOL. Tweet me. I have great hope that the lot of you will figure it all out.