Why Senator Obama Can Thank My 22 Year Old Friends And Me For Helping Him Win The Election and Why His Inevitable Presidential Win Proves That The Millenials Time Has Come
By: Andrew Jenks
I am 22 years old. I am part of Generation Information. We are roughly between the ages of 18-29. We are about 45 million strong -- nearly one quarter of the political electorate. The population of the Baby Boomers combined with the Greatest Generation doesn't even come close to our numbers. We are bigger, more connected, and more self-oriented than any generation that has come before us.
My Friends and I will be a critical variable that determines who is the 44th President of the United States of America. If 57% of us show up in pivotal states like Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado, we could swing the election by two to three points in each state. That's enough effectively to swing the election.
The business world takes our numbers very seriously. In order to better understand our psyche, Ernst & Young and Merrill Lynch pay top dollar for so-called consultants to train executives and other employees on how to better understand Me and My Friends. The entertainment business relies on our money: movies, TV shows, music, would all go broke without our pockets. But for some reason, politicians, neither Democrats nor Republicans, ever caught on to using us to their advantage - until now.
I remember when I was watching that half-white, half-black guy talking on the podium in Springfield during the Spring of '07 - announcing his candidacy -- needing nothing less than a New York Giants Super Bowl Eli Manning Hail Mary type pass to actually get out of the primaries victorious. I remember thinking about Hillary Clinton's candidacy -- and how if he was lucky, this Obama guy could be a VP one day.
But I was wrong. Because Senator Obama was going to capture the youth vote. Seize it. Galvanize it. Senator Obama saw my generation the same way George Bush saw the Evangelicals: formidable, plentiful, sometimes radical. Senator Obama knew that in order for him to win in the primary, much less the election, he was going to have to do something different. Do something to get my vote - my generation's vote.
Not only are there a lot of us but there are a lot of us that are capable -- very capable. "Millenials were taught to think in terms of the greater good," says Claire Raines, from Managing Millenials. "They have a high rate of volunteerism. They are personally conservative about issues like drinking and driving. Reading scores have improved. The rate of high school graduates who go on to receive a college degree is at an all-time high. There's lots of good news about this newest generation..." Women are now more likely to go to college, stay in college, and graduate from college than men. For a long time now, my generation has had information in our Face -- through various cable news networks, thousands of blogs on the internet, and now through our cell phones which literally feed us Breaking News. My generation is different because unlike any of those who came before us, our access to news - to Information - does not rely on three network news channels for 30 minutes a day, or the daily newspaper. We get our information as it happens -- at our fingertips -- whether we want it or not.
Senator Obama figured it out. He realized that we are Capable and so he used that to his advantage: Obama hired a Gen Info to be one of his go to guys.
While Obama was giving that speech in Springfield, he had already hired his lead speechwriter: a 26 year old recent graduate of Holy Cross University, Jon Favreau, or as his friends call him, 'Favs'. Much of Obama's words would go through Favs - somebody from our generation - familiar with our favorite TV shows, our favorite music, and our favorite Facebook groups. If Obama was going to walk the walk (with my generation) he was going to have to talk the talk -- and he did just that, from day one.
The real kicker to Me and My Friends is that not only are we Capable, but we share our insights -- we can distribute this wealth of Information, and can collectively invigorate each other in mediums that simply did not exist in the past - not even in 2004. My generation is Connected. We have over 400 friends on Facebook which feeds us a minute by minute account of what our friends are doing everyday. I haven't seen or spoken to certain friends from elementary school in over fifteen years but I know what they majored in at college, what their girlfriend or boyfriend looks like, and what kind of mood they've been in this week. My generation does not have photo albums -- we have Facebook.
The fact is that nearly 90% percent of college students and nearly 60% percent of non-college youth are on Facebook in one way or another.
So during the early days of his campaign, Obama Signed In. Not only did he realize that he must use Facebook to his advantage, he realized that Facebook could be the game changer - that Eli Manning throw. How seriously did Obama take the social networking site? The Senator hired Chris Hughes... one of Facebook's co-founders.
Barack Obama's group, or profile, now has nearly two million Friends. John McCain's: a little over 500,000 (hundreds of thousands less than the group 'I want to Punch slow walking people in the back of the head' -- which has one million people). Some of Obama's Facebook clubs have been turned into political action committees -- one, for example, with nearly 62,000 members and chapters at 80 colleges. Facebook friends don't just talk amongst each other on Facebook, They Spread the Word. Obama has been known to show up to rallies that his Facebook groups host because he knows that in many ways, Facebook is his Hail Mary throw that has yet to be intercepted.
The Senator from Illinois has catered to my age bracket. Obama was ripped by the AARP for skipping an event that they sponsored, preferring to attend an Usher concert. The most recent issue of Vibe (a magazine whose covers usually range from Snoop Dog to JLo to Mariah Carrey to Eminem) showcases a cover with a classic Obama smile -- quoted as saying 'I need your vote'. Obama certainly puts forth a practical effort to get our attention be it Facebook or the age of his top speechwriter. But what he also did, which has been unreported, is put forth an effort to understand my generation's Psyche. He has picked our brains, used our numbers, and laughed, perhaps, all the way to the White House.
I remember when I was 10 years old and the Class Bully said, 'Andrew, you know how your mom always calls you special? Well, all moms say that. It's B.S.' I was shocked by what quite possibly could have been a reality: I was not special -- my mom was totally making that up. Come to think of it, I had even heard other moms say the same special line to my own friends. I started to fume... and just as I became concerned about whether I was special, a teacher informed me that I got an award for Best Social Studies Student of the week. I could pick up my trophy after school. That's my generation: we grew up on our parents telling us we were special and Mr. Rogers reinforcing that when mom and dad weren't around. Our parents are the "helicopter parents," always hovering and always encouraging.
A candidate can't get his or her vote by talking at us. You get your vote by talking with us - amongst us. Remember: we are special.
Napoleon said 'History is a version of past events that people agree on.' My generation is growing up in a Wikipedia World. Google anything and within the first few links will be Wikipedia -- a legitimate information database, mostly relying on the general public to contribute Info. That's how special we are - my generation believes that we can write history...like literally - we, ourselves, will write the history books on our laptops or cell phones when we have a minute break from a TV show or movie. And this is why Obama's Facebook venture is working so well. When we watch videos of Obama on the internet, like YouTube, we can comment on what he is saying. On Facebook, we can write on his wall and voice a concern or question - and everything we say will be read by, watched by, or in some way or fashion be seen by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of other people. We become part of the history because Our voice counts - and that's what we expect.
So we are Capable. There are a lot of us. And we Connect. On top of all of that, we are so self-confident, perhaps arrogant, that we believe each and every one of us has a place, a voice, and a purpose in society. You'd think we would be dying to vote. Just dying. Since middle school, many of us have only known George W. Bush as Our President - so Republican or Democrat, you should realize how badly we could use a Commander In Chief that We Can Call Our Own. Global warming affects Me and My Friends more than any other generation. Iraq impacts Me and My Friends more than any other generation. And what do We care about most right now? Jobs - which suddenly are getting elusive. And college affordability - which hasn't gotten cheaper.
We must be just dying to vote. And Obama seems to have catered right to us.
Unfortunately, we hardly believe in our own government. Gen Info certainly loves our Country - but it's difficult for my generation to say that we can believe much in our government - or for that matter, the President. We grew up with Presidents who made some of the most dishonest personal remarks, '...I did not have sexual relations with that woman' to President's who made some of the most dishonest national security remarks, '...Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction'.
So when you have a bunch of Capable kids who are skeptical about politics and politicians, there is really only one concept that can catch their ears. There is really only one word that we will always listen to: Change. Since we were young change is something that we were taught to believe in: change jobs on a whim, change internet sites, change who we're talking to online every three seconds, change sexes, change parents, change the TV channel -- we grew up in a culture of non-stop change.
Presidential slogans usually don't do much other than compliment a name on a sign, but Senator Obama used his and made it the word of the year. Whether you like him or not, Obama's extensive use of the word change should give him a picture on Wikipedia when you look up the word. John's McCain's original slogan was 'Best Prepared to Lead on Day One'. Bill Richardson's was 'Real Experience, Real accomplishments'. But my generation seeks change - we don't always know in what sense - but we welcome it. And just change wouldn't have worked either. Even 'Join the Campaign to Change America' (John Edwards) wasn't good enough. We need to believe it. 'Change we can Believe In' was perfect - call it cheesy and hokey (they all are) but it spoke to Gen Info. Obama had many of us hooked.
It wasn't just the Senator's slogan that caught our attention - it was a list of words and phrases that he seemed to use over and over again, at a relentless pace. He did it so frequently that it began infiltrating Gen Info's hard drive. He tapped into our Psyche.
For the first time since the American Revolution, my generation grew up in an America that was attacked on its Homeland - war, for the first time in recent history, was waged on our own soil. Fear existed. Back in 2000, Hunter S. Thompson said '...the year 2000 is beginning to look super weird. This time there really is nobody flying the plane... Smart people shrug and admit they're dazed and confused.' That was in 2000 - what would Thompson say now that terrorists have flown planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and nearly The White House? Thompson had said that the smart people just 'shrug' - unfortunately, it's not just the 'smart people' anymore, but it's the financial experts, military generals, and people in charge of the country - Democrat or Republican. That's scary.
But my Generation, we're used to it.
In my high school, we had emergency drills in case Al Qaeda blew up the nuclear power plants down the street. A siren would go off, we would all get on a school bus, drive to a nearby Blockbuster, and turn around. We did this once or twice a year. If somebody had a gun, we had a secret saying -- which I won't reveal -- that the secretary would say over the P.A. system to let everyone know to get in a room, shut the door, lock it, and duck. By the time college rolled around, I had bi-weekly email terror alerts -- without even signing up for them. My generation grew up in a world of fear and Obama knew it. So when he wasn't talking about Change, Obama was probably talking about Hope. The antonym of fear is hope. Now whether you like him or not, it's hard to disagree that hope is one of the few themes that young America believes in - and have always believed in - perhaps we are naive. To us, there's always hope. There's got to be hope. You never hear a young person say, 'I've given up all hope'.
But Hope speaks to Me and My Friends in a much deeper way -- nobody should underestimate the quiet yet deeply rooted sense of patriotism with which My Generation is imbued. We will always remember which class we were in - Science/period 4/10th grade - when It happened. We grew up in a Post-9/11 World - and America has hardly seen more Patriotic years than those after that Tragic Day. We came to deeply respect America during that time - if there is Anything that My Generation understands, it's Patriotism. Look around next time you're at a ball game, and I Promise You, there will be a fair portion of youngsters with their Hand on their Heart. Although we may not always believe in our government, we will Always have Hope for our country.
And when it wasn't 'Hope' or ' Change', it was 'Yes, We Can'. As 60 Minutes journalist Morley Safer says, 'This is a generation that only takes Yes for an answer.' And he's right. We were taught early on that we could do anything - throughout school the topics and subjects changed, but the theme was always the same: you can do anything you want. As a teacher in high school once told me, 'No is just the launching pad to eventually get the Yes that you're looking for'. My generation doesn't understand the word 'no'. By declaring 'Yes, We Can' Obama was again hitting us at our core.
Gen Info is not stupid - we have different opinions - if we disagree with Obama's policies we are not going to vote for him just because he is on Facebook or has a 26 year old speechwriter or uses the word Hope. But Obama woke up a large portion of my generation that did, more or less, agree with what he said - they just wouldn't have normally cared...or voted.
In the Democratic primaries and caucuses, the number of young voters increased from 1.1 million to 4.9 million. A Harvard study found that compared to the 2004 primaries, the youth vote quadrupled in the Tennessee primary and almost tripled in Iowa, Georgia, Missouri, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.
Twice as many of us voted in this primary than ever before.
You can't judge my generation's interest by how many of us show up at a rally. If you could see how quickly We can type, you would realize how excited We are.
History will show that Obama threw that Eli Manning pass - and the youth of America caught right on. But what history should also show is that we gave Obama many of these platforms - he didn't conceive them nor did anyone on his staff. It was my generation that created online communities, made them popular, and then created the opportunity for anybody with the imagination to Connect.
At the Democratic Convention, Obama said that this election is about more than just himself - and he's right. In many ways, it's about the passing of a generation. It's about a 26 year old speechwriter just as much as it's about the kid with the username GoBulls232 who posts videos of Senator Obama nearly every day. It's about the guy who comments every week on Obama's Facebook profile. It's about the millions and millions of new Gen Infos voting in this election.
I have no idea how Conscious of a decision it was to use Gen Infos' Capabilities - but the Obama campaign reeled Us in.
And now the torch is being passed.
This election is about a new generation that is quietly taking over America.
Facebook me at Andrew Jenks or email me at JenksAndrew@gmail.com