Now that 2012 is in full swing, it is time for a little nostalgia trivia from my favorite of all decades: The ’90s. Where were you on New Year’s Eve, 1999? Think back. When the clock struck midnight, it was the end of an era, the end of a century, and possibly the end of the world as we knew it. In the collective imagination, the New Millennium, like all New Years, held with it the hopeful promise of the unknown. And as a teenager that night, I remember watching and waiting to see how the world would change.
I am part of a Millennial generation that essentially came of age after the year 2000 — that milestone that always sounded a little too futuristic to be true. More than a decade later, all that has changed. Before you could say 2010, we had poured out of college and into the workforce. We voted in droves for the historic election of Barack Obama, one of the youngest presidents in history. At 50 million strong in the U.S. alone, the Millennials are a demographic whose power, influence and voice has been growing.
Growing up, we were shaped by the events of the post-2000 world and are living in a hyperglobal time scholars have called the “end of history.” The Millennial age is marked by the blurring of traditional lines between nation-states and a global public, between elected officials and citizen activists, between debtors and debtees, between corporate interests and social good, between official media channels and revolutions streamed live via cell phones and satellites. At the frontlines of this change, more and more young people are leading the way, as the world has seen this past year from the Arab World to Silicon Valley to Chile.
As products of this era, we were forced to “think globally” from a young age. Lightning fast communications technologies made us more interconnected and socially aware. Trying to find employment in a flattened world, we studied harder and longer to compete for our jobs. Beginning our careers in the throes of a recession, we learned to become more entrepreneurial, strategic, and adaptable in order to succeed and thrive. Since we have been given a lot of lemons to start with, we have become determined instead to shape the world into the place we want it to be.
Could this spirit make us the next great generation?
Genetically programmed since our youth to be social networkers, the Millennials are not just innovators. We are incubators of ideas: Often thinking our best amongst friends — connecting online, multi-tasking on the Metro, brainstorming over a beer with colleagues. We see the public, private and civic sectors not in their traditional silos, but as intermixable points of leverage for the issues and causes that we devote ourselves to — whether it is global poverty, environmental stewardship, or an open internet.
In recognition of Millennials’ growing role in society, this year Prof. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, and confidante to some of the greatest leaders of our time, signed a pact to officially create the Global Shapers — an international community of leaders under 30 committed to remaking the world for the better. In the Washington, D.C. hub, we consist of social entrepreneurs, development advocates, technology wonks and media personalities. This winter, Shapers had the chance to join the World Economic Forum in Davos to bring a fresh perspective on cross-cutting global issues of the day.
While it feels monumental for our generation to be metaphorically handed the microphone, given the floor, and invited onto stage with world leaders, I also have a feeling that the Millennials came of age, discovered our purpose, and learned how to make the world sit up and listen, a long time ago.
Christine Horansky is an advocate for global education and champion for women and girls, who is a Global Shaper in the Washington D.C. hub. She recently served as a moderator for the World Bank’s Open Forum on Gender and the U.S. Department of State’s Women in Public Service launch. She holds a Master’s degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Mount Holyoke College. Follow her at @MissMillennial.
A version of this piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post. Photo Credit: Business Week