Generation of innovation, hard work

Much of the discussion about Generation Y has been negative. Older generations seem to have written us off as entitled, selfish and unable to surpass or even live up to their achievements. These claims are based on overall shifts in the ways we communicate and choose to live our lives as new media forms have encouraged us to share our deepest (and shallowest) thoughts while a down economy forced many young adults to move back home after college.

One might think baby boomers are right about us being the beginning of the human race in decline. 

Oddly enough, though, it might mean we are the next great generation. 

Tom Brokaw coined the term “the greatest generation” in discussing those who came of age during the Great Depression and who went on to bring the country back economically and fight during World War II. Brokaw was absolutely right. They were a generation of hard workers who embodied the American dream of working hard to pursue the happiness they truly deserved.

That generation produced a baby boom generation. The baby boomers have been successful, working hard for a better life than their parents provided for them. In the process, many of the baby boomers constructed a way of life for their children in Generations X and Y that is more comfortable and more privileged than the one they lived.

I have reaped the benefits of the Generation Y advantage because my parents have worked tirelessly to open every possible door for my siblings and me, just as their parents did for them. 

These doors include more than just the one into college. They opened doors that allowed me to play baseball until I was in high school and allowed my sisters to dance for many years. They also allowed us to have cell phones when we were in high school — ultimately to allow us to be in constant communication to ensure we were staying out of trouble.

These things may sound materialistic (and are to some degree), but they display the comfortable world constructed by the baby boomers. This comfortable world has become the reason for the general lack of confidence and trust that we, as Generation Y, will be able to take society to the next level.

This deficit of confidence in Gen Y is not fair. The world must begin to wake up and see the true magic in our generation.

We now find ourselves in a time that challenges the foundations of comfort and entitlement we grew up with and has put us at a crossroads similar to the one our grandparents found themselves at during the Great Depression. During that time, people were forced to find new ways of achieving the American dream. Old industries began to change, and the way America worked changed with it.

We find ourselves in the exact same situation today as technology continues to eliminate jobs and economic realities have forced other jobs overseas.

One result of this has been a harsh reality for those who have to move home to mom and dad with no job in sight.

Another result can be seen each and every day on this campus — hard work and innovation. Both terms are commonly overused, or even misused, but here at the University, we know what it really looks like.

Students banded together to produce prosthetic body parts to be used in developing countries. Students from a variety of disciplines collaborated to produce a high-quality lifestyle publication, called IMPULSE Magazine. Students joined together to bring the famous and inspiring TED talks to this campus through TEDxUIUC. The fact that this paper is produced both in print and online five days a week is a testament to the sheer work ethic of students on this campus who all make up Generation Y.

The list could go on for pages, but the one clear takeaway is that our generation and, in particular, students on this campus will not settle for less. 

Instead, we are fighting to prove ourselves in a world that built us up and now tries to tear us down. Unlike our parents, though, we must do so in the midst of a new world where the roads to the American dream are not paved as clearly.

In the process, we are becoming the next great generation.

John is a junior in Media. He can be reached at

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