TIME Millennials: Don't Complain — Get An Education and Prove You Can Succeed Too


Recently, PolicyMic published another essay about the trials and tribulations of millennials. This time it was in the form of a commencement speech. Frankly, all the reasons given for millennial mediocrity discussed in the essay ring empty to me.

Millennials will eventually replace Baby Boomers and all the other age groups in between. That means that all the high-powered and high-paying positions in business, government, technology, etc. will be filled by millennials. It seems to me that millennials should be preparing to take charge by going to college and graduate school in spite of the high costs of doing so.

When Jamie Dimon’s successor’s successor is selected 15 or so years from now (Dimon is CEO of J.P.Morgan), the new man or woman will surely have an MBA from a prestigious business school. And when Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts leaves the court in 20 years or so, his replacement will likely have a law degree from Stanford, Yale, Harvard, or Columbia (most justices do).

Mediocre people are not going to be considered for the best positions, only ones who are educated and have shown strong ambition and proven successes. For intelligent people, great opportunity is very real unless you just give up when you are in your twenties and stay caged up in your parents' basement.

The self-pity expressed by millennials is unacceptable. Every young person must overcome some obstacles during his or her life. In America, in the 20th century, there were four significant conflicts in which thousands of Americans were drafted into the military and killed protecting our freedom. During my life, we survived an oil embargo and three-hour lines to buy gasoline. Our salaries and savings were diminished by high inflation that reached a peak of 13.5% in 1980. We dealt with unemployment of 10.8% in 1982. And, interest rates were so high (The Prime Rate reached 21.5% in 1982) that money was not available to mortgage a home or start a new business.

During the past 30 years, AIDS stole the lives of many of our brothers and sisters, our urban schools deteriorated, our cities were plagued by high crime rates.

Yet Americans bounced back every time. Some millennials vividly remember 9/11, as does every older person. I thought the world was coming to an end on the day that airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center. Our country was attacked, and in New York City, where I live, we all stopped grieving, got back to work, and rebuilt what had been destroyed.

I certainly can relate to the issues facing millennials and do not mean to denigrate their plight. One thing is sure: Whining will not make things better. Positive changes will occur one person at a time through creativity, innovation, hard work, and patience. If the worst thing that happens is that home purchases and marriage must be deferred, fear not — things could be really bad. Getting drafted into the military and fighting a war in some far-off jungle is a helluva worse fate. You can actually get killed.

So, buck up millennials. You can do it. Start fending for yourselves, get educated, fall in love, have babies, and be happy. I promise things will get better sooner than you think. And most important, don’t be mediocre.