The Promise of Our Youth

January 03, 2021

New School High School in NYC graduates, like millions of teenagers across the US this spring 2020, celebrated their graduation with a virtual commencement

As many of you know, Mark and I have a High School graduate this year. Sophia will have her Roland Park Country School live graduation – for immediate family only- on the morning of July 20, 2020. Adorning masks and practicing 6 feet social distancing, the proud families of our girls are so grateful for this opportunity to celebrate their incredible accomplishments together. First on the list for most, if not all of us, on this list of accolades, are how these graduates, amongst all the 2020 HS graduates on this earth, were able to keep their heads high, while they also kept their nose to the grindstone and their eyes peeled to their bright future - as COVID-19 ransacked and invaded their present and future lives; all in the blink of an eye. These young adults are nothing short of miraculous as they tirelessly demonstrate an impeccably pragmatic and very driven nature, so representative of the Gen Z population, known fondly as the Gen Zers, who began to populate the planet in 1997. 

RPCS Senior Pep Rally Fall 2019

What does Generation Z signify? Where does it come from?  They follow the Generation Millennials. For decades, the Pew Research Center has been committed to measuring public attitudes on key issues and documenting differences in those attitudes across demographic groups. “One lens often employed by researchers at the Center to understand these differences is that of Generation”. To learn more about the Pew Research Center, please see the end of this blog.

So what do these Generations, also known as Generation Cohorts encompass? They provide the opportunity to look at Americans both by their place in the life cycle – whether a young adult, a middle-aged parent or a retiree – as well as by their membership in a cohort of individuals who were born at a similar time.

 Generation Cohorts by Dates in 2019 as per the Pew Research Center:

  • The Silent Generation: Born 1928-1945 (74-91 years old)
  • Baby Boomers: Born 1946-1964 (55-73 years old)
  • Generation X: Born 1965-1980 (39-54 years old)
  • Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (23-38 years old)
  • Generation Z: Born 1997-2012 (7-22 years old)

Naming Generations is best regarded as a LENS through which to understand societal change, rather than a label with which to oversimplify differences between groups. These Generational cohorts give researchers a tool to analyze changes in views over time and this helps to gain an understanding of how different formative experiences (such as world events and technological, economic and social shifts) interact with the ongoing life-cycle and the aging process to shape people’s views of the world. With this perspective, the younger and the older adults may differ in their views at a given moment because their generational cohorts differ due to their formative life experiences.

I will reiterate, that all the while we discuss Generational Cohorts, it is important to keep in mind that naming Generations is best regarded as a LENS through which to understand societal change, rather than a label with which to oversimplify differences between groups.

Pew Research Center has been studying the Millennial generation for more than a decade. By 2018, it became clear to this dedicated group of researchers that it was time to determine a cutoff point between Millennials and the next generation, Generation Z.

In order to keep the Millennial generation analytically meaningful, and to begin looking at what might be unique about the next cohort, Pew Research Center decided to use 1996 as the last birth year for the Millennials Generational Cohort. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward (which may end in 2012) is part of a new generation, Generation Z.

The historical, technological, behavioral and attitudinal data accumulated through various surveys and studies to understand how Generations differ and overlap, demonstrates more of a continuum across generations rather than a threshold or cut-off determined by large change and shifts in behavior. This means that the differences within generations can be just as great as the differences across generations, and the youngest and oldest within a commonly defined cohort may feel more in common with bordering generations than the one to which they are assigned. This is a reminder that generations themselves are inherently diverse and complex groups, not to be labeled.

Pew Research defines members of Generation Z as anyone born between 1997 and 2012. That means the group spans ages 7 to 22 in 2019. The organization cites important political, economic, and technological factors that helped them determine the transition from Millennial to Generation Z.

 To cite a few of these factors:

  • Most American Millennials were shaped by 9/11, the Iraq War, and the economic recession of 2008. Members of Gen Z may have little to no memory of these formative experiences held by the Millennials.
  • Generation Z is most notable for being the first generation to be totally immersed in the world of the internet since birth.
  • Both Generations are impacted, but the Gen Zers are acutely aware of the onslaught of devastation left by man-made disasters as well as natural disasters brought on by climate change, which is raising awareness amongst the Gen Zers in a very large way. They are more likely to practice an eco-conscious lifestyle and have early interest in environmental issues.
  • Despite the significant challenges that COVID-19 has created for the economy and workforce, Gen-Z is approaching their future with a positive attitude. They are young, resilient and determined to make things better—and they’re just what our world needs.
  • You could say this Generation Cohort of Gen Z, takes the “glass-half-full perspective on life”, even before COVID-19. On a recent Cassandra Poll, only 27% of respondents said COVID had caused them to lower their expectations of the success they would enjoy in life—leaving 73% who feel that the pandemic will not negatively affect their ultimate success and happiness. (See survey conducted by ENGINE Insights on behalf of Cassandra below under Resources).
  • Generation-Z is hardworking, focused on their goals and immensely practical—not so different from the Boomers before them. And, like the Boomers, they are coming of age in a time of dramatic national change and upheaval.

    Many believe that the rising Generation Z will get to the point where they are able to mold society into something that reflects their energies and values. Further, many believe that the truth they hold and defend so well is currently reflected in their integrity and moral conviction to correct the wrongs imparted upon them, which they have inherited in their youthful state.

    In his down to earth and heartfelt manner, when President Obama gave his Commencement Address to the nation’s 2020 high school seniors ( all “Gen Zers”) on the May 16 2020 special “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020”, Obama spoke so eloquently to this concept of the truth Gen Zers hold and how they are actively defending it at this very time of crisis and transformation with the COVID impact upon them and the rest of the planet in 2020. To quote President Barack Obama:

    “….dealing with massive uncertainty…. All of which means that you’re going to have to grow up faster than some generations. This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems”…. “It’s woken a lot of young people up to the fact that the old ways of doing things just don’t work; that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick; and that our society and our democracy only work when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other”.
    “It’s also pulled the curtain back on another hard truth, something that we all have to eventually accept once our childhood comes to an end. All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing? Turns out that they don’t have all the answers. A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions. So, if the world’s going to get better, it going to be up to you.”
    “That realization may be kind of intimidating. But I hope it’s also inspiring. With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you “no, you’re too young to understand” or “this is how it’s always been done.” Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.”
    “But if you listen to the truth that’s inside yourself, even when it’s hard, even when its inconvenient, people will notice. They’ll gravitate towards you. And you’ll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.”
    “But the truth is that you don’t need us to tell you what to do”.
    “Because in so many ways, you’ve already started to lead.”


    Let’s take a look at their predecessors. The Generation Z has been very fortunate to build their future of the blood, sweat and tears as well as strong work ethic of the Millennial Generation.

    Throughout U.S. history, the American Dream has meant the ability to build a successful life through hard work and individual initiative. Yet every generation has a different vision of exactly what that means. For parents of the baby boomers, in the aftermath of World War II, the driving factor was just to avoid another Great Depression. That need inspired the prosperity of the 1940s and 1950s and allowed the next generation to aspire to goals beyond financial security, such as pleasure and self-fulfillment.

    Like the generations before them, Millennials have a version of the American Dream that is built on their parents’ legacy (Baby Boomers and Generation X), but at the same time distinctly their own. The major goals of the Millennials’ American Dream sound just like those of their parents and grandparents. They want to be successful at work, get married, have a family and achieve financial security for retirement. But their vision of what that looks like and how they want to get there, definitely involves changing things.

    Perhaps the biggest change in the Millennial version of the American Dream is what success at work means to them. It’s not about the big paycheck or a pat on the back from the boss. According to the Allstate/National Journal poll, it’s about whether they’re “doing something enjoyable” and/or “making a difference in society.” In another study, more than seventy percent of Millennials reported wanting a workplace that feels like “a second family”—and as every employer knows, (me included), they’re more likely than any generation before them to pick up and leave if they’re not getting what they want.

    Millennials see lots of room for improvement in the institutions they have inherited: a workplace layered with managers who create obstacles to innovation, a private sector that pays too little attention to social problems, and a federal government that isn’t doing its job, particularly in relation to two of their biggest issues, income inequality and climate change.

    The good news is that Millennials are idealistic, hopeful, and committed to making positive change. They are a lot more optimistic than their older counterparts that things will be better next year. And despite the fact that they got the worst of the Great Recession—high unemployment rates just as they were starting out, coupled with a wearying load of college debt—almost ninety percent say they are confident they will have enough money to hit their financial goals in life. They are more optimistic about the state of the nation than their parents and grandparents, and more likely than any other generation to say the country’s best years are still to come.

    Maybe that’s because they’re looking in the mirror. Despite the popular portrayal of Millennials as “selfish” or “entitled,” a Pew Research Center survey reported that their top priorities in life are “being a good parent” (52%) and “having a successful marriage” (30%). Coming in fourth and sixth were “owning a home” (20%) and “high-paying career” (15%). Almost none of them cared about “becoming famous” (1%). They want to be leaders in the workplace not only to make great things happen but also “to empower other people.”

    Despite their economic hardships, they are on course to be the most giving generation in U.S. history. According to the latest Millennial Impact Report from the Case Foundation, 84% of them made a charitable donation in 2014, and 70% were volunteering for a favorite cause or charity.

    The most wonderful aspect of the children being born since 1981 is their willingness to take on the world and learn to make their own way through it. These children are now adults if they are of the Generation Millennials, currently 26-40 years old or young/soon to be future adults if Generation Z, currently aged 8-23. More about the Generation Cohort that follows Generation Z, Generation Alpha, in future blogs.

    If there is one thing Millennials are happy about, it is transferring most of the ageism stereotyping they have endured over the past decade to the new Generation Z or Gen Zers. Calling Millennials entitled and spoiled is no longer fitting as the oldest of that cohort either are or are approaching 40. Some are already running large companies or higher up the corporate ladder. Unlike the more optimistic Millennials that preceded them, Gen-Z are largely realists.


    A frugal generation- Generation Z

    Even before the pandemic, Gen Zers were known as being a practical and frugal generation.

    A 2018 research by Dell Technologies titled, ‘Gen Z: The future has arrived,’ revealed that although they want job security and monetary motivation, Gen Z is less interested in climbing the corporate ladder and are more intrigued about supporting their companies’ growth and success. The research surveyed over 12,000 Gen Zers across the globe.

    The report found that Gen Z looks for non-monetary factors in an organization, with 45 percent wanting to work at an organization that has meaning and purpose beyond simply getting paid. The survey showed that 38 percent of Gen Zs polled want to work in socially and environmentally responsible organizations. Dell’s report found a common characteristic shared by many Gen Zs which is the desire to make a positive impact on the world.

    Sophia providing Summer Camp in the Dominican Republic- summer 2018

    COVID-19 has emerged as a defining event for today’s Gen Zers and Millennials. Not to mention, Gen Zs are inheriting a world that is plagued with severe climate catastrophes, rapid extinctions and loss of natural ecosystems. This Generation more than any before them are willing to engage in environmental activism from a very young age to support causes they care about and are not happy about it.  Many are practicing an eco-conscious lifestyle and have early interest in environmental issues.

    But, Ageism (defined as prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age), can be debilitating for the youth because what is said gets buried under who says it. And from what we can see, Gen Z is more determined and louder in asking for change, and leading this pack, are some highly focused females. One of the most famous and talked about Gen Z activists is 17-year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. She gave United Nations (UN) leaders a lecture at the 2019 UN Climate Summit in the most confronting way to push for greater action on climate change. The global strike has since inspired other sub-protests around the world, initiated by the youth.

    I look forward to continuing what I hope is a dialogue with my readers, as I delve more into our Youth and how they will save our planet. I will close by repeating such important words spoken by  President Barack Obama:

    It’s (COVID), also pulled the curtain back on another hard truth. Turns out that they (Generations born prior to 1981) don’t have all the answers. A lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions. So, if the world’s going to get better, it going to be up to you. With all the challenges this country faces right now...
    nobody can tell you “no, you’re too young to understand” or “this is how it’s always been done.” Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.
    “But the truth is that you don’t need us to tell you what to do”.
    “Because in so many ways, you’ve already started to lead.”


     I welcome everyone to join me in celebrating the Planetary Youth while they place the spotlight on all aspects of our troubled planet to raise the awareness and create the change necessary for our survival. Whether born today (more to come about Generation Alpha) or forty years ago, we need to listen and follow their lead because with or without us, our youth looks at the world with a very heartful and earnest lens to Save the Planet. Someone has to....and they are ready and able to create shifts in our paradigm. Please listen and let our new youth leaders create positive eco-friendly, climate and planet stabilizing changes through socio-economic and political accountability and responsibility, while embracing racial and gender equality to create powerful diversity and unity. Our society molds our belief system. It is up to the youth on this earth to procreate and unleash a compassionate society that strengthens itself through strengthening each other and protects Mother Earth. Get out of the way AND RECEIVE THE MESSAGE. Our Youth is not afraid, they are cautious and ready to embark unimpeded.

    Future blogs will highlight and outline how we are currently benefiting from our children and their generous and gracious gifts. Days are beyond unprecedented, we have Genesis in the making. 

     Until later,

    Ariane Cometa MD

    your holistic doc


     Pew Research Center

    is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. We conduct public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research. We do not take policy positions.


    The Center generates a foundation of facts that enriches the public dialogue and supports sound decision-making.

    Our empirical research on a wide range of topics helps U.S. and international policymakers, civic leaders, educators and the public at large understand and address some of the world’s most challenging problems.

    Our public opinion surveys allow the voice of the people to be heard, and our de­mographic, economic and political analyses provide context to understand how the world is changing.

    We are nonprofit, nonpartisan and nonadvocacy. Our mission is to inform, not to prescribe. We believe that better information can build a better world.

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