This month’s installment of “Beyond Policy” highlights groups working to build community for liberty-loving Millennials written by Cindy Cerquitella of America’s Future Foundation. You can find the previous segment of this series by Helen Straight here.
I recently had drinks with a friend that works in the State Department. She was brought up to believe in conservative values and carried those with her through her life and into her position. Now, after 12+ years of working in government, the principled choice isn’t always quite so clear – and doesn’t always seem to align with her desire to help those less fortunate.
While some of her friends share her beliefs, the vast majority do not, and the media she consumes in her spare time tends to lean progressive.
So how can she continue to choose the limited government perspective in her work and in her life?
She desperately needs the tools and community that can provide a welcome space to learn, be challenged, and to grow in confidence – and to be reminded of the beliefs she’d been brought up to cherish.
She is evidence of a phenomenon many of us at America’s Future Foundation (AFF) are seeing across the country. While many in our generation have foundations in the principles of liberty, we lack opportunities to engage with these ideas and seek guidance in how to apply those principles to an increasingly complex and polarized world.
A Generation In Demand
Last week, in the run-up to the Mid-term elections, my inbox and social media were filled with calls to go and vote. From Tory Burch Foundation, to The Skimm, to Fast Company, the message was clear: the future depends on young people getting active and engaged in today’s political decisions.
Why the full court press? Because while millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) make up the largest demographic in the United States, they have failed to wield their power in recent elections and to engage in the political process.
In fact, young people appear to be leaning out of politics. As many as 77% are registered as independent, rather than choosing a traditional political party. They don’t feel represented, they don’t trust who is in charge, and they don’t think there is a traditional path to achieving change.
For millennials that possess a healthy cynicism for government, they find few opportunities to share their beliefs with those in their social sphere. However, they face the fear of retribution even when sharing their beliefs online. But while the world may not be eager to hear their opinion, that doesn’t make millennials any less hungry for change and eager to play a role in achieving that shift.
The question now is, how do we harness that interest and direct it toward productive conversations and activities that will keep this generation connected, educated, and engaged?
Young people’s preferences are clear and pronounced; they want jobs that contribute to making the world a better place, they want to support companies that embrace what they see as important in the world. They seek to align their life choices with what they have determined to be “the true, the good, and the beautiful,” to borrow a phrase from my alma mater’s president, Larry Arnn. It is our job to provide that same experience as it pertains to civic engagement.
Friendly Faces in the Crowd
Several great liberty-minded organizations are now making a focused effort to reach this group of people. They are building programming for young adults who want to find and keep friends, grow in their careers, and somehow contribute to making the world a better, more prosperous place.
Organizations like Free the People offer short, to the point, and informative videos that help counteract common arguments and discussions in the public sphere. Reason magazine and the Foundation for Economic Education provide in-depth reporting and think pieces on both current events and timeless principles; and the Center for the Study of Liberty brings people of disparate views together around the table for civil discussions.
My organization, America’s Future Foundation, builds in-person communities of like-minded individuals through chapters and professional development opportunities around the country. Millennials are eager to make a change at home – in the communities they either grew up in or have adopted as their own – and AFF gives them the tools to effectively do that.
These efforts are receiving a fantastic response. Young people are engaging in the tens of thousands. It is clear that they are hungry to grapple with the ideas that will achieve prosperity; and they are thrilled to have access to challenging content that is relatable to them, in a format that fits into their busy lives.
They are encouraged to find places where others share their beliefs; places where they can build connections and friendships with others who share their values and will support their intellectual journeys. It is vital that we continue to focus on this growing demographic and to ensure they have the knowledge, the network, and the skills they need to lead us into a more free and prosperous future.
Cindy Cerquitella is the executive director of America’s Future Foundation and previously ran nonprofit training programs at the Atlas Network. You can learn more about America’s Future Foundation’s work to engage younger generations by developing life-long effective advocates for liberty by signing up for our newsletter.