1. This Moment In History
A nation adrift, a planet at risk
You don't have to look hard to find the bad news. It's everywhere-on the TV networks and the cable channels, on the radio talk shows, in our local newspapers, in every magazine, and all over the Internet. The economy is in the tank. Americans by the tens of thousands are losing their jobs. In Iraq, a wasteful war of dubious necessity grinds on, while terrorists in other countries regroup and hatch fresh plans. Pollution poisons our environment and junk food poisons our bodies. Millions go without health care. Corporate plunderers and speculators grab an ever-growing share of profits while worker salaries dwindle. The price of oil skyrockets, making everyday necessities more and more costly. Millions lose their homes as a nationwide mortgage crisis spirals out of control. And the mountains of debt we're all carrying-government debt, credit-card debt, student loans-continue to grow, burying our hopes for a secure future.
Yes, the bad news is everywhere. We worry about it. We gripe about. Bloggers rant about it. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert joke about it. Talking heads and politicians argue about it.
It's time we do something about it.
The moment is coming
History, someone said, is "just one damn thing after another." Usually it is-just a parade of presidents elected, of wars fought, of bills passed, of economic booms and busts.
But standing out from the parade there are the real turning points-the crucial moments, few and far between, when major changes occur that affect civilization and life on this planet for decades or centuries tocome.
It's always easier to recognize those turning points after they've come and gone. But once in a while-once in a great while-you can sense when such a moment is coming. And right now, millions of us are aware, vaguely or vividly, that Something Big is in the air . . . that a crucial moment of opportunity has come, when we can change the course of history for the better.
It's not about the arrival of a great leader-although crucial turning points in history often seem to conjure up the inspired leadership needed to make powerful changes happen (think about George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Jr.). It's about deep-seated social, economic, and political forces that prepare the way for profound change.
And perhaps the greatest of those forces is the power of a generational shift.
The Millennials are here
Great leaders play an important role in shaping history. But an even greater role is played by the generations of ordinary people from whom the great leaders arise. Without those millions of people, sharing a common vision and ready to shape the future together, even great leaders can accomplish little.
Washington could never have led a successful revolution without millions of patriots ready to fight for their own independence. Lincoln could never have freed the slaves and reunited the nation without millions of Americans willing to put their lives on the line for that cause. Roosevelt could never have lifted the U.S. out of the Great Depression or spearheaded a victorious war against fascism without the heroism of what's now called "The Greatest Generation." And King could never have aroused the conscience of white America without the voices of thousands of courageous supporters who made up the ground forces of the civil rights movement.
Today, a new generation is about to seize the reins of history. This book has been written about them and for them. They are a generation that appears to be unique in American and world history-a generation that is incredibly well prepared to tackle the huge challenges we all are facing. They are often known as the Millennial generation. Born between 1978 and 2000, the Millennials currently include 95 million young people up to 30 years of age-the biggest age cohort in the history of the nation.
In the last three years, the Millennial generation has begun to emerge as a powerful political and social force. They are smart, well-educated, open-minded, and independent-politically, socially, and philosophically. They are also a caring generation, one that appears ready to put the greater good ahead of individual rewards. Hence our preferred name for them-Generation We. And they are already spearheading a period of sweeping change in America and around the world.
As this period of change unfolds, Generation We will follow (if possible), lead (if necessary). And because of their huge numbers and their unique new perspective, they will make dramatic changes happen, one way or another.
You probably already know a lot about the Millennials. You may be a Millennial yourself, or you may have read or heard about the Millennials in the media. During 2008, the Millennials have been getting a lot of buzz, thanks in part to the amazing rise of Barack Obama-the first presidential candidate to build a campaign largely on their support.
But few people realize how unique Generation We actually is, and even fewer have recognized the incredible opportunities they have to transform society for the better, both here in the U.S. and around the world.
The first purpose of this book is to explore the emerging power of Generation We and to show how the Millennials (and their supporters from other generations) are poised to drive the next great turning point of history. And the second purpose is to propose an agenda and a road map-to provide Generation We with some ideas and a rallying cry around which, we hope, they can begin to mobilize.
It's time we do something about the bad news. Generation We can lead the way.
A note to the reader
If you are a member of the Millennial generation, this book is a call to action. Our goal is to help you fully grasp the remarkable opportunity that you and others of your age group have to make our world a better place, and to encourage you to seize that opportunity while you can.
The book begins with a chapter that describes in some detail the characteristics of Generation We. (For you, this may feel a bit like looking in a mirror-though we bet you'll learn some things about yourself and your age-mates that you never fully realized before.) The rest of the book then explains how the special qualities of your generation have prepared you uniquely well to reshape our world, and suggests some of the ways you might go about doing that.
If you are not a Millennial, your relationship to this book will be a little different. You may have a child, grandchild, friend, acquaintance, colleague, or employee who is a Millennial, in which case you are likely to learn some interesting and important things about the world he or she will inherit and the unique perspective he or she shares with other members of Generation We.
Most important, if you are a citizen of any age who is concerned about the direction in which our nation and our world are heading, this book is directed especially at you. It describes the coming revolution that we believe Generation We is poised to lead. When that revolution begins, all of us will have a role to play.
What will your role be? Will you support, encourage, guide, and defend the best efforts of Generation We to remake our social, political, and economic systems and to protect the deepest interests of every person on our planet? Or will you stand aside, remain uninvolved, or even throw up roadblocks against the coming change?
The time to begin thinking about these questions and challenges is now.