Millennials want more Obama attention

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The State of the Union may be improving. But the state of millennials is still pretty dire.

I know we are noted, as a generation, for our ability to complain. We complain on Twitter, via text, in person, on Tumblr. We are squeaky wheels. But we could stand a little grease about now.

Millennials are grotesquely underemployed. We waded bravely into the workforce waving extremely expensive sheets of paper that turned out to be almost meaningless. Nearly half of college graduates have jobs that don't require four-year degrees.

The rest of us paid too much for educations at universities that did nothing much to improve our critical-thinking skills. As of last month, 13.1 percent of millennials were unemployed, according to Generation Opportunity. And that doesn't take into account the 1.7 million who have stopped looking for work.

Even our optimism is flagging: 52 percent of us reported being kept awake with stress in the past month, according to USA Today. Nineteen percent have been diagnosed with depression, more than any prior generation (which might reflect more awareness of mental-health issues but still is not pleasant).

We need Barack Obama to be there for us. We were there for him. We are the ones who received all those creepy fundraising e-mails.

We used to think the world would be our oyster. Now, the world just looks like our parents' basement.

And we were so good! We never messed around. We never embraced 1970s fashion. We never burned draft cards or bras or -- anything but CDs of illegally downloaded music, really. We were trained by our loving helicopter parents to supply correct answers on any standardized test we were handed, to speak in complete sentences and to maintain a firm grip on our social media presences. But the past few years have been a test of a totally nonstandard kind.

What has our hard work gotten us?

A lot of student loan debt. Stress. Not jobs. (I write this as someone with job-market survivor's guilt, but then I have a job in the newspaper industry, which means that 10 years from now I am certain to be unemployed.)

In his recent State of the Union speech, the president suggested the need to control the cost of college and deal with the more than $1 trillion of student loan debt Americans had amassed. But it's not just student loans. Yeah, staying on our parents' health insurance was nice, but what happens next? Hitting the snooze button on these bills won't fix the larger problem of what we are going to do with ourselves.

We have no idea how to handle this. We have tried listening to music. But Beyonce is not as reassuring as we would like.

We understand one's 20s are never easy. They are the point when all your confident "When's" start melting into "If's." Sure, it's the economy. But for how much longer?

We were expecting more options than to be depressed because we do not have jobs or depressed because all our friends are getting married.

We should have known that Hope was the most dangerous thing in Pandora's box.

Although our voting levels barely decreased from 2008, The Cool Election Where We Knew Everyone Running, about half of millennials did not vote in November. Thirty-one percent said before Election Day that it did not matter who won because none of the candidates represented their interests.

The president has taken on a lot of causes that are important and well and good. But there's one group that Obama needs to stop ignoring: us. If Obama really believes, as he said in his inaugural address, that "we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future," then he needs to speak to us. We could use the reassurance.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog at washingtonpost.com/blogs/ComPost.

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