Millennials Are Key to Making America Stronger

Looking at the broad range of challenges facing the country today -- a broken immigration system, harmful budget cuts that continue to slow economic recovery, intrusive attacks on women's health in state after state, and dangerous restrictions on voting rights -- it's clear that progressives have many fights ahead if we are going to keep our country on the right track. Millennials have already established themselves as a powerful force on these issues. And the growing gap between conservatives' outdated approach and the values embraced by Millennials will only further energize these young people to push back on the policies holding them and the country back.

Indeed, our country's future demands that we embrace our next generation of leaders -- the often-underestimated Millennials -- who are the largest, most diverse, and most progressive generation the country has ever seen. And it's an electoral imperative as well -- by 2020, they will make up nearly 40 percent of voters.

Despite some magazine covers to the contrary, Millennials are diverse, connected, forward-thinkers who believe that government can be an agent of positive, meaningful reform, and their rising political muscle within the electorate is already driving change on a number of issues that have seen major advances.

The most recent example came last month when the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and restored marriage equality in California. Millennials have already been credited with increasing acceptance and support for gay rights -- leading not just to advances on marriage rights, but also setting the stage for a growing push for workplace equality as well.

Perhaps there is no issue more in need of Millennial involvement than our nation's economic future. Disproportionately unemployed, burdened by mounting debt, and weary of their future economic prospects; today's youth are too quickly labeled as lazy, entitled, and dependent. Such characterizations are not only baseless assumptions, but they fail to recognize the real danger that the youth-unemployment crisis and rising student loan rates pose for their future and the country's overall economic growth.

The truth is, young people all over the country are eager to pursue their education, join the workforce, and become engaged, contributing members of their communities. Yet conservatives in Congress seem to be on a collision course with the economic future of our nation's young people with their policies forcing many to delay buying homes, paying back loans, and saving for retirement. Our political and economic future demands that we bring Millennials into the fold to develop and implement smart, targeted policies that help create financial security for this generation as they become part of our workforce.

Another front in which Millenials are helping to drive the national dialogue is comprehensive immigration reform. Americans have already expressed clear support for the comprehensive reforms we need to fix our immigration system and Millennials have shown even stronger support. And with the Senate's recent passage of a bipartisan bill, a major milestone was reached.

But now that the bill heads to the House, it's clear that many conservatives are determined to slow this progress and the young people who are clamoring for a brighter future. Our country cannot afford to go backward on immigration and Millennials have already been a leading voice for reform -- spearheading the successful push for deferred action and continuing to speak out this month in favor of passing bipartisan immigration reform.

By fully engaging young people now, our county's leaders have an unequivocal opportunity to help move our country forward on the most important issues of our age--our fundamental rights, economic competitiveness, and truly, the future of our country.

The Center for American Progress is seizing this opportunity by building on the eight years of successful youth outreach it has had with Campus Progress through the launch of Generation Progress, which will look to engage all young people, in the important fights ahead.

Neera Tanden is the president of Center for American Progress and Anne Johnson is the director of Generation Progress.