A Millennial Shares Her Roots and American Values

Most of the women of the Millennial Generation came of age in the tumultuous, often perilous, years following 9/11. Whether your perception of those years hinges on labels like “global terrorism,” “war on terror,” “immigrant threat,” or the “American Dream,” you’ve experienced a number of cultural, political, and economic changes that shaped and limited your views and expectations. As young adults — but also members of today’s Greatest Generation — you have firsthand knowledge of the socio-political and personal challenges the generation before you had to face. Therefore, you understand that the greater good, even in the face of great challenges, is better served by sacrificing oneself and sacrificing for the collective.

As those of us with a stake in the “future of the nation” struggle to define what that future looks like and how it will be lived, we can find inspiration and wisdom in a deeper understanding of the experience that began in those years after 9/11. This is why I have teamed up with the New Leaders Council, which provides daily literacy and reading programs and services for immigrants, refugees, and their descendants living in the United States, to create The Millennial: A Shared Experience. Its goal is to create space and opportunity for women and men from all generations to gather and reflect on experiences and lessons learned from the last ten years — for ourselves and for the country we love.

As a millennial, I am deeply concerned that the fundamental values of our nation — those of loyalty, hard work, and our belief in the value of individual merit and the collective good — are under unprecedented threat. While some have argued that America’s greatness derives from its democratic founding and that Republicans are the ones perpetuating the Founding principles in today’s political climate, I don’t believe this is the case. What I do believe is that it was in that extraordinary moment when ordinary people banded together and had the courage to create a new way of governing that America became the exceptional nation we are today.

It was in that extraordinary moment when ordinary people banded together and had the courage to create a new way of governing that America became the exceptional nation we are today.

You can’t build a strong America — or any great nation — without first believing in a set of shared shared beliefs. This means creating space for men and women of all ages and from all walks of life to engage in profound discussions about what is true, what is real, and what is right — about whether this country is still the one we love, about the policies that help make America great, and about how to get there.

It means even more than that, because we’ve all done it before. And it means that every adult with a stake in the future of the nation must come together and talk about these issues. It is not simply the difficult decisions we will need to make as citizens and individuals that are at stake. Our strength and the bedrock of what makes us different as a nation depends on whether or not we feel valued as individuals and whether we are committed to the ideals that once inspired us and continue to inspire me and generations of my family.

So wherever we are today, whether you’re in a classroom or a business, an experiment or a community, I hope that you can find the courage to talk to a friend, a neighbor, a family member, or a colleague about these shared values and develop a greater understanding of who you are. As soon as we do, as we open up to new experiences that shift our perspectives, so too will our ability to achieve and sustain the values that make us American.

http://TheMillennial: A Shared Experience is written by Rebecca Spain and Amanda Berry.

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