Kenny Kasper of Maria Carrillo High School


You are plugged in and tuned out. You are selfish and ignorant. Children are dying by the thousands, millions and billions, and you do nothing. Your education system is in shambles, and you are on a race to nowhere. China, India and Japan will become the world’s next superpowers, and you will bring shame to this nation. And worst of all, you are apathetic. You don’t care.
This is the monologue being delivered to Generation Y on a daily basis in classrooms, newspapers, web pages and sometimes even onstage at our own school assemblies. In fact, this generation has been drinking this message from the fire hose for so long that its populations are beginning to believe it is true. And while these preachy pleas are meant to prompt some type of awakening for the Gen Y’ers to seize the reins and save the world, they are having precisely the opposite effect.
People have tried to pull away our security blanket by shocking us out of apathy, hoping we’ll put away our cellphones and don blue and red uniforms with S’s on the chests. But the shock effect is lost upon us. We are shocked every day by media coverage unmatched in human history detailing every mugging, murder, rape and genocide. To get on stage and tell us that these things occur does not surprise us — it simply confirms that our perception of reality is correct and convinces us that we truly should pull our blankets over our heads even more tightly. Who would want to leave that warmth and safety for a horror-filled world?
Of all the aforementioned failures, the claim that our generation is apathetic stands out as the most blatantly false. Even within the limited circles of my childhood, I have met too many inspired, invigorated and passionate young people to believe that our generation does not care. On those days when these accusations weigh most heavily upon my spirit, I consistently encounter young people with a glint in their eyes and a burning sensation in their hearts, determined to both “stand atop their history” and change the world for the better. They seize life’s opportunities with contagious enthusiasm.
So, I do not believe — I know — that we are capable of changing the world. With the resources available and bottomless wells of energy, I can only envision a whirlwind of inspiration sweeping over the world’s surface.
President Barack Obama communicated something similar in his State of the Union Address, and he did not spend his time reprimanding America for its failures. Instead, he reaffirmed the American spirit, choosing to call our nation to action through encouragement rather than criticism. This is what our generation needs to hear right now. It is time to stop the ambush of guilt-tripping and begin inspiring individuals to discover their potential, which does not necessarily mean curing malaria or fighting for women’s rights in Pakistan. Young people must choose their paths for themselves and pursue their passions, and in this way, they will change the world — not by being bullied and bludgeoned into becoming a martyr at 17 years old.
We have more opportunities than any generation before us and, simultaneously, we have seen the mistakes that led to an unnecessary war, an economic crash and a floundering education system. These mistakes empower us with the opportunity to avoid them in our future. They endow us with the ability to repair, improve and reinvent this nation.
Additionally, after all of the doubt and condemnation, they have given us a chip on the shoulder and something to prove. Don’t count us out.