You would be hard-pressed to find a college student who hasn’t received a parental lecture about how their parents used to walk 10 miles to school every morning, listened to a professor explain that they didn’t have the technology we have as undergrads or heard a grandparent explain how they had a job when they were only seven years old.
Writing for The New York Times, Steven Rattner suggests that millennials—those born between the years of 1980 and 2000—can be perceived as “narcissistic, lazy, and self-centered.” Insults like these have consistently plagued the accomplishments of our generation. Criticism from those older than us has diminished our life choices and priorities; sometimes even making us believe their words ourselves. In fact, it sometimes feels as if our success is not encouraged, but rather, our failure is expected.
There are people in our generation who unfortunately fit these stereotypes; we cannot deny the allegations that our privileged lives have affected some of our worldviews. Teacher and author Erin Gruwell stated in The Freedom Writers Diary, “Don’t let the actions of a few determine the way you feel about an entire group.” Defining an entire generation based on a half-truth cannot be accepted any longer.
Regardless of the unfairness of these generalizations, they do not seem to hinder our generation. Although I cannot speak to the entire population of millennials, after my time spent at Geneseo, I am confident in our generation. If the work ethic, passion and generosity of the students here is even a fraction of what our generation is capable of, our world’s future is a bright one.
Anyone present in the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena on Saturday April 9 wouldn’t dare call our generation lazy or self-centered. At the Relay for Life Event from 6 p.m.–6 a.m., students and community members joined together in the fight against cancer. The student-run event was attended by 2,000 and raised over $173,000. If the incredible atmosphere in the arena wasn’t enough to convince you of the power of our generation, these statistics certainly speak for themselves.
Stereotypes regarding our generation affect us each and every day. Needless to say, Geneseo defies each and every preconceived notion of how “little” people think we are capable of. Even though we have opportunities and technology that was unavailable to other generations, we try our best not to take these privileges for granted. Instead, we use them to tear down generational stereotypes—one action at a time.
I can see it happening across the world and right here in our Geneseo community. I see this action as Geneseo fraternities and sororities join together in philanthropy and resident assistants help students in their college assimilation. I see it as Geneseo athletes train tirelessly to bring home SUNYAC Championships and as students travel halfway across the world to experience other cultures.
I hear it in the ferocious typing of students during the early morning hours at Milne Library and in the voices of a cappella groups and in the instruments of music ensembles. And I most certainly heard it in the moment of silence at the memorial service for Matthew Hutchinson and Kelsey Annese.
As millennials, facing the weight of negative stereotypes is a burden we continue to carry. We must persist in proving everyone wrong and by breaking out of the confinements those stereotypes have created. As I see it, the future is not hidden within the opinions of generations of the past—rather, it is within us.