Generation Z — the Gen Xers’ babies born between 1995 and 2010 — are starting to reach adulthood and the world will, thankfully, never be the same.
If you don’t know a lot about this new generation, just take a quick look at the special graduation supplement in this week’s Post-Record. The valedictorians and salutatorians we’ve highlighted in our 2017 grad section are a fine representation of their generation: They know their accomplishments are thanks to the community around them; they are hardworking, competitive and thrifty, but also generous about giving back to others who aren’t so lucky; and when they speak about the future it’s apparent that these hopeful entrepreneurs and healers crave independence as much as a stable paycheck.
But Generation Z is all of these things and so much more.
Born during the lean years of the early and mid-2000s, these kids have seen their parents struggle despite having higher education and, often, many years’ worth of hard work under their belts. They know the American Dream with its “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” creed is a myth that hurts everyone but a few at the very top.
Having Gen X parents who liked to rebel against authority — as well as having grown up in a world where Occupy activists exposed big banks, big pharma, big insurance and big oil as centers of corruption and greed — has created a giant generation of informed malarkey-detectors. This is a generation that will be very hard to fool.
And unlike the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials who came before them, Generation Z doesn’t easily buy into the “us versus them” mentality that has kept their world in a state of perpetual war and created the most divisive political climate the U.S. has seen in many decades.
They have grown up with a black president, with gay marriage, with women holding positions of power. They are, more than any other generation before them, likely to have close friends who are vastly different from them in terms of race, religion and socio-economic income.
Instead of fighting for their tiny, tiny corner of the world, Generation Z — which already outnumbers the Millennial Generation by about one million and is poised to be the first generation in the U.S. that is not majority-Caucasian — will be a more accepting, diverse and global group.
As these kids start to come of age, graduate from high school and begin their journey toward adulthood, the least we — the Millennial aunts and uncles, the Gen X parents, the Boomer grandparents — can do is try our best to make their path a little smoother.
We can fight for them to have universal healthcare — making it easier for one of those budding entrepreneurs to start their own business without worrying that a trip to the emergency room will shutter their doors. We can ensure that the air they breathe and the water they drink is not polluted, and that the planet is not warming at such a rapid rate that their corner of the world is imperiled by rising oceans, wildfires or flooding.
To the local Generation Z high school seniors who are just a few hours away from graduation ceremonies, we send our congratulations and our promise that we will work harder, that we will think about your future and that we will help you become the “Even Greater Generation.”