Nov 18, 2010 11:17 PM by Jeanette Trompeter

My Generation: Social Issues and the Future.

What keeps you up at night? Your answer may depend on what generation you belong to. We've been talking to Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers this week about the economy, advances in technology, work ethics and the generation gaps between them. Tonight we find out how each generation feels about some hot topic social issues, and we find out their biggest concerns, and predictions for the future.

It was a melting pot of perspectives when we asked three generations to share their ideas about everything from the economy to each other.

They live in the same world, but grew up in different ones. And bridging the gap can be difficult.

Ruth Locke is a Gen-Xer and things the Millennials have a bright future ahead of them. "I think they'll be happier with less and feel successful with less than any other generation." Millennial Brendan Heinichen is not so sure. "I just think we see these billions of dollars of federal aid going out every day. Constant handouts...we're going to be the ones to pay for that. So I don't think that we're going to be more financially enhanced than our previous generations."

Gen-Xer Shannon Dempsy thinks Millennials have been raised with more, so their expectations will be higher. "Well what they're saying is they're going to have to pay off the debts that we've created for them. I point out. I barely get the words out when Baby Boomer Betsey Nash jumps in. "We've all been doing that. Ever since world war two when our parents and much later when I was born, they were paying."

It seems the tough times in which we're all living in, acts as the common bond, if there is one, between the generations. "We're going to have to take care of our own retirement as it looks for me at least." Heinichen says. Baby Boomer Joe Mangin says at least Millennials know the reality. "It was something we were expecting to be there and now it's not going to be there. So we have no time to make that up. You at least know, in a fairly real sense, that you're going to have to support yourself, through your retirement."

Marci Powers says the economy the way it is keeps her up at night. "I do think there's a perfect storm brewing. It's a lot of what people here have brought up: lack of access to health care, poverty, hunger, our kids not being educated the way they once were. I mean we have a higher drop out rate in high-school than ever before. We're not competitive in the world. I think it's going to take us all working together really hard to put us back on track."

But can we bridge the generation gap? Millennials say they won't be living the lives their elders did. "I think we need to adjust our focus on not needing the three story home with the white picket fence. We need to live within our means and be happy with it."

I asked Millennials how many have credit cards. They all raised their hands. When I asked how many carry balances, only one did. It seems Millennials have learned from the mistakes of older generations. "I mean if you're making 25K a year, you can't afford a 500K house." Heinichen chimes in.

The issues that stirred emotion among their elders, don't even make the radar screen of Millennials. They are fine with gay marriage, and aren't fazed by gay couples. "I just think there's so much more going on in the world to worry about. I agree. There are people starving in countries, why do we have to worry about if two people are together." Millennial Katie Ferber explains. "It's a waste of time a waste of money." It's a non-issue. We will make it a non-issue" Carrie Covell adds.

When it comes to legalizing pot, the lines don't cut down generational paths. "People who want to smoke marijuana now do." says Baby Boomer Debbie Peterson. "Oh no, I think there are people who say no because it's illegal. Or I don't want to go there." Betsey Nash pipes in. Gen-Xer Ruth Locke agrees. "There will be a percentage of people who do it anyway. But there are a larger percentage who won't do it because someone said no to them."

Brendan Heinichen doesn't by the hype about why it should be legal. "We're hearing a lot of talk about, people being locked up behind bars for marijuana, but that's not true, it's a small fraction of who's in jail are actually in there for marijuana." But fellow Millennial Patrick Maier thinks keeping it illegal does keep drug smugglers in business. "What about the power of the mexican drug cartels that are importing billions of dollars worth of drugs not only to California but all over the United States. That would eliminate a market for them, and probably reduce their power." "but then what about cocaine, meth, heroin and all the other drugs" Heinichen responds. They both admit there are no easy answers.

The interaction seems to impress Baby Boomer Mike Lee. He says his generation just wanted it legal because they wanted to smoke pot, and the Millennials are really thinking it through. "Now we have kind of a generation of knowledge about it and you guys are looking at it logically it's 'You know this and that.' Boomer Betsey Nash causes the room to laugh with her final two-cents on the issue. "I was just going to say from an H.R. point of view...I don't want my employees any more impaired than they already are!"

As much heat as they take from Gen-exers and Baby Boomers, Millinnials have won their respect when it comes to caring about the world in which they live. "What I've found is that a lot of them do have that drive to do what's right in the world. And that's pretty cool." says Betsey Nash. Leslie McKinley agrees. "This generation does much more volunteer work. I dont' recall when I was that age, that I volunteered on a Saturday to paint someone's house or things like that."

"So with a show of hands, who says making a living is top priority?" I ask them. One hand goes up. "Okay, top priority...enjoying your work?" Nearly everyone's hand goes up. In all generations. It seems our economy has changed the perspective of just about everyone.

I ask if the American Dream is still to own a house? Not so much is the response from Millennial Carrie Covell. "I think that we feel freer to go from apartment to apartment and go where we want to go. There's so many more single people now, and people are choosing not to have children. I don't think that's the American dream anymore. I think the American dream is more about experiencing different things and different places." "You think that when you're young." says Shannon Dempsey. "And then as your taxes build and build and build." she laughs. "And you start hearing 'Buy a house! Buy a house!' That's what changes it."

Gen-Xer Sarah Chapman still has the dream of owning a home, but she won't do it like so many older Gen-X'ers have. "I've seen what has happened and I'm very hesitant. I'm not going to buy a house until i have a big down payment. My house payment will be something that's NOT 3/4 of my income." I notice a lot of heads nodding in the back. I ask the Baby Boomers if things have changed in their minds as well. "It's totally to do with the value of my house." says Nash. "And all the money that's coming out of my retirement to pay for my house. And I'm thinking wait a minute." She says she's starting to dream about giving up the big house, buying a little R.V. And seeing the world.

Despite their differences, and fears, there is hope. "I think if think there's no hope, then there will be no hope." says Gen-Xer Chapman. And there is optimism. "I'm optimistic." says

Millennial Patrick Maier. I mean you just look at history, governments, economies suffer blows, we bounce back, we had the great depression in the 1930s. And we got through it." Russ Levanway thinks we'll do more than get through it. "I really feel optimistic because no longer does it feel like maybe in the 40's 50's and 60's when America had this perception that we had to pull everyone along with us, and everyone had to catch up. And in the last decade or the last 15 to 20 years many other countries have developed their economies and infra-structures and we no longer have to have a leading role. We need to accept the role that we live in a flat world with many other peers. We can work with them, and that excites me. Because there's so many other cultures that we can learn from. And we can do it with a collaboration with other cultures and other countries.



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