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Opinion

Redub Gen Y as The Humbled Generation

The last decade has been rough on my generation. We've been taken down several notches by economic bubbles, wars, and debt. Let's call ourselves The Humbled Generation. And if we're smart, we can tackle today's problems with humility.

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Our economy, which we were told would never fail, did indeed fail many of us. The unemployment rate for Americans in their twenties is twice the national average. The same elders who once told us we were special and could handle anything didn’t prepare for uncertainty themselves, and now have no response for those among us who can’t find jobs and are staring down federal debt we’ll likely face the rest of our lives.

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Our parents complained in the 80s that our country at times threw good money after bad, but now there’s no good money left. Our capital has been squandered and our debt sold to foreign powers – its integrity downgraded.

The United States will likely have the world’s strongest military as well as more money than any other country for a while, but a less pleasant truth is that the American dream will elude many more Americans of The Humbled Generation than it used to.

Being humbled isn’t all bad. Our cultural icons are almost always humble heroes who beat the odds. Kites rise against the wind. And the way I see it, future Americans might someday look back and recall how our humbled generation, too, was great at certain things.

If we learn from the mess we’ve been dealt, our grandchildren could one day talk about The Humbled Generation that took the lessons of the first years of the 21st century and put them to use.

They might talk about how we traveled the world, learned other languages, and strengthened US diplomacy and security. They may talk about how we made our military might greater by not rushing to use it.

And perhaps most importantly, they may one day talk about how we corralled our country’s runaway spending and paid down the profligacy of our parents. They may talk about how we saved for and weathered uncertainty, instead of depending on bailouts. This is humility we could be proud of.

The world isn’t, as we were led to believe, ours on a string. But maybe knowing this is why we’ll succeed. A Humbled Generation is up next; we’ll see how we do.

Justin D. Martin, Ph.D., is the CLAS-Honors Preceptor of Journalism at the University of Maine and a columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. Follow him on Twitter: @Justin_D_Martin

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