Dear Generation Z’ers, Millennials, and Generation X’ers,
I apologize on behalf of my generation for the state of the nation you are inheriting from your elders. It is a mess. Our natural environment is deteriorating, we are being ripped apart by a deadly pandemic, too many of our citizens don’t earn a living wage, and retirement security is increasingly insecure. Racism and sexism are social epidemics and too many Americans do not have access to health care. Our social and education policies are designed for 1960 rather than the 21st century, and our roads and bridges are crumbling.
Many of you are justifiably disgusted with politics, and some of you believe that voting is fruitless. But, please, give it a try this year. The 2020 election is your opportunity to launch a new era by the simple act of voting. Your combined generations have the electoral power to begin the transformation of your country and to change the way the nation conducts politics.
I also understand that many of you have allegiance to Bernie Sanders and are disappointed in the Democratic primary results. Senator Sanders is a man of integrity, intelligence, commitment and passion. His reform agenda includes most of the ingredients that I and many elders agree with. I, however, did not vote for him (or for Joe Biden) in the North Carolina primary. My candidate was Amy Klobuchar.
Why? Great ideas do not by themselves lead to nation-transforming action––particularly when the legislative houses hold conservative majorities. Action on major issues such as universal health care comes from the hard work of cobbling together 51 (and often 60) votes in the United States Senate and 218 votes in the House of Representatives.
Getting those votes requires bringing competing factions and interest groups together around a common vision, and to achieve this you need to call on long-standing relationships of trust. Then, when you succeed, you need a competent administration to implement and manage the programs. I chose the candidate––Senator Klobuchar–––that I thought had the intellect, skills and constituency to get the legislative and management work done.
The progressive agenda that Senator Sanders and his army of followers seek no longer requires a revolution. The revolution has been fought and the progressives have won. Universal health care, the Ocasio-Cortez green new deal, and dozens of other programs are now part of the mainstream conversation.
Millennials and members of generation Z need to join their parents’ generation in the leadership ranks of American public life––– sooner rather than later. The changes you are seeking can mold the future of the nation. That is the main reason my support in the 2020 presidential race now goes to Joe Biden. It is not only because I believe he can beat President Trump, but largely because I think he understands the role of America’s elder generation in this crucial time: To foster a generational change in the governing of the country.
The clincher for me came when he was standing on a stage with Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer. He clearly articulated that goal: He said, “I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else.” Then, referring to Booker, Harris, Whitmer, Beto O’Rourke, Pete Buttigieg he said, “They are the future of this country.”
They and you—generations X, Y, and Z— own the future. You also own the responsibility for creating the future you want for yourselves and your posterity.
This is where those of us who are elders come in. We have accumulated decades of experience that includes exhilarating victories and humbling defeats. There are millions of us ready and willing to join Joe Biden in building that bridge, and then lending our experience to your generation of leaders as you work to reform America. I am not alone among America’s elders in understanding that the world ahead is your world, not ours. Our role is to help you seize it on your terms.
I believe that President Biden will appoint young women and men who have been active leaders in your cause to crucial decision-making positions in his campaign and in his administration. There are already many extraordinary young trailblazers among the 67 Democratic freshmen elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Some of them, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have already marked themselves as leaders for today as well as for the future.
Representative Ilhan Omar said it well, “The progressive movement has never been about one individual. It is about issues. Our focus should be on ensurig we get the most bold progressive agenda possible from the Democratic candidate–––because that is what Americans want.”
That certainly is what I want. If I live 10 more years (the life expectancy of a 76-year-old healthy man in America) I believe I will celebrate your three generations forming a renewed American political structure that is dedicated to serving the common good. Then I can rest in peace.
Bill Jamieson’s career has included leadership positions in business, government, and education. He was also an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and his ministry centered around advocacy for low-income families and children.