Welcome to a series where a baby boomer and a millennial debate the issues that matter to you.
On being a millennial
We now find ourselves treating different generations as warring factions.
Gen Z dismisses a whole generation with the phrase: “OK Boomer.” (They’ve made sweatshirts to prove it.) Gen X is nowhere near innocent. They’re “Karen’s,” an archetype that is the antithesis of woke. And the oft-memed millennials are responsible for killing everything, from diamonds to cereal, all because of our little addiction to avocado toast.
Though the combative dynamic is a bit exaggerated, I have to say it resonates. There is a part of me that feels resentful that what my parents’ generation took for granted is no longer a given for me and my peers.
The barometers of success that were so stable for baby boomers have not held true for millennials. Instead, we’ve entered a world with a rapidly escalating cost of living. Our debt is rising and salaries don’t match. The average student loan debt for millennials in 2019 was $34,504, while the average millennial has an annual salary of only $35,592. A 2015 study found that fewer millennials owned homes than both Gen X and baby boomers in the same age range. And millennials who are able to buy homes often can’t do so without their parents’ help.
Sure, some things are better for us. We can call up food delivery with the touch of a finger and we didn’t have to deal with the ever-present fear that must have come from the draft. But we have had to confront the realities of a different kind of ever-present terror. We were shaped by 9/11 and witnessing terrorism front and center on our soil. And we live with the near-constant fear of mass shootings. We scan for the exits in movie theaters and wonder if our desk is situated too close to the elevator.
Yet for baby boomers, our predicament still seems all too funny and distant. A top AARP executive proved this recently when she said, “Okay, millennials, but we’re the people that actually have the money.”
Comments like these fail to acknowledge that millennials didn’t make this world. We were simply born into it.
-Elizabeth Djinis, editorial writer
On being a baby boomer
A young friend observes that baby boomers were lucky. We came of age before the relentless demands of social media and the anxieties of the electronic crowd. Yes, our food delivery options were basically limited to pizza, and to get one you had to actually dial a phone attached to a wire and talk to someone. But it must have been a kinder, gentler era – almost quaint.
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Except, perhaps, for that stuff about Kent State, Vietnam and the draft. I recall huddling with friends around a radio in our dorm at Indiana University, listening to the Pentagon’s lottery as our birthdays were matched against the order for call-up, from 1 to 365. The experience helped make foreign policy quite personal.
With a lottery number in the mid-200s, I was indeed lucky that night. Others, not so much. The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington bears 58,000 names, most of them members of my generation.
Last Sunday, during halftime at the Bucs game, I watched as dozens of young men and women took the oath of military service and then marched into the incalculable commitment they had just made. I marveled at their bravery, patriotism and optimism.
General Joseph Votel ran the Central Command at MacDill until he retired. Last month, he was honored at the Tampa gala celebrating America’s Medal of Honor recipients, and he used his own remarks to praise the current crop of men and women serving in the military. They are absolutely as good, the general said, as any who came before.
Each generation has its own advantages. Each faces its own challenges. And each generation produces remarkable people who rise to meet them. To my young friends: may you be bold. May you also be lucky.
-Paul Tash, Times chairman and CEO