Millennials are a fractured generation. Despite interconnectivity beyond the wildest dreams of our parents and grandparents, we live deeply separated lives. We scroll through our algorithmically curated Twitter feeds and Facebook Timelines and consume media narrowly tailored to our interests on Tumblr, Netflix, and Spotify. Although this phenomenon is often framed negatively, these small communities allow us to flourish. We use them to find homes out of homelessness and friends, both in our own communities and across oceans, who can offer advice and resources in times of need. They amplify our voices and allow the causes that we care about, from climate change to the Movement for Black Lives, to enter public debate.
Yet this is not enough. Our predecessors, the political gatekeepers of today, still relegate our opinions to the sidelines. We’re not taken seriously. They call us “crybullies” and tell us to wait our turn. That is, until now.
Earlier this week, Hillary Clinton asked millennials to join hands with her not only in the fight against hate but also in the fight for the fabric of this nation for generations to come. Addressing us as partners instead of nuisances, Secretary Clinton said, “Young people will always have a seat at the table where any decision is made.” For the first time in recent memory, millennials weren’t talked down to. We were taken seriously as the activists, decision-makers, policy experts, and community leaders we are.
Secretary Clinton’s message wasn’t deceptive; it recognized the divisions that exist in American politics but did not let anyone off the hook. Her aim was simple and intentions clear: American optimism trumps fear and terror every time, but we have to work together to get the job done.
What I saw from Secretary Clinton on Monday wasn’t politics as usual. She wasn’t sowing seeds of terror and hate that spur on extremists on both sides of the political divide, nor was she peddling the American Dream as candidates before her have done time and time again.
At its best, the Dream is unbridled optimism for the future, hope for a brighter world unbound from the shackles of our past. At its worst, the Dream is the myth of lack of accountability—the idea that somehow we are innocent from the gross injustices in society or can escape if we work hard enough. Both extremes of the Dream will us to sleep, insisting that we forget about the past and present. Instead, we are told to defer to the future.
Secretary Clinton’s message to millennials was this: We can’t afford just to dream anymore. That was the mistake of her generation. She is offering something new: a Dream in which we’re lucid about the problems of the past that continue to impact our present (racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia) and the challenges of the future (our warming planet). A Dream that is capable of driving us forward without making us forget where we come from and how far we need to go.