Owning Millennials: Do we have the power to shape the future?

Change. Development. Progression. Impact. As young people born at the beginning of a new age in time, we’ve all felt the yearning to become creators of tangible change. Raised during chaotic times, there seems to be an innate passion within Millennials to create something beyond themselves.

But is it even possible for us to create tangible change within the community at our age? Can we as students really make an impact on the world? This question has troubled me for years, especially in high school. I had always felt passionate about making an impact on my community, but hadn’t been given the opportunity to do so in a substantive way.

The various clubs we join are typically groups of people discussing opinions, offering solutions and trying to make sense of the world around us — which is exciting and enriching. But I soon realized discussion was not enough. It was time to put words in motion.

When I came to Mason I knew I needed something more than just dialogue. I needed a platform to create, influence and drive some type of material change — to be a part of something that would transform the ‘we should’ mentality into a ‘we will’ one.

Upon discovering the Roosevelt at Mason, discussion quickly turned to action. Roosevelt at Mason, more formally known as the Roosevelt Institute, is the nation’s largest student-led think tank, which focuses on writing and implementing progressive public policy. Roosevelt’s mission is to “bring together thousands of thinkers and doers — from a new generation of leaders in every state … to redefine the rules that guide our social and economic realities.”

To do so, Roosevelt’s core objective is to allow students to create public policy, crafted from their own ideas to rethink and reshape everything from local policy to federal legislation.

Last week, after months of preparation, Roosevelt at Mason took their own members’ policies straight to the capital in Richmond, Va, at Roosevelt’s Lobby Day. Delegates and senators and even Speaker of the House William Howell listened to students’ voices on a variety of topics.

Emma Copeland, senior at Mason and president of Roosevelt, led a team lobbying for sexual assault policy reform. Sophomore Luke Bouck and junior Sawyer Barksdale advocated for state-funded affordable housing for Fairfax residents. And I, Donna Imadi, freshman and Roosevelter from day one, was proud to lead a team to push for the implementation of a mentorship and tutoring program right here at Mason.

Throughout the day, I became consciously aware of the misconceptions our generation has about its role in society. Any semblance of doubt dissipated as I was faced with the reality that we do have the power to drive and influence development and advancement within our communities.

When speaking to various senators and delegates about “how to involve millennials more in the policy making process,” they were receptive, and surprised to hear that we as young people care about what’s happening beyond our seemingly passive attitudes. The loudest issues of disconcert from senators and delegates were of their inability to navigate avenues of meaningful engagement with Millennials.

It’s important to recognize that there is a large gap between us and our predecessors, but they are just as perplexed about how to reach us as we are about reaching them. But despite this disconnect, our public officials care about what we have to say, and want to indulge our ideas.

The real problem is that we only speak truthfully to one another. We retreat within ourselves after discussion, halting the passage of our voices into the ears of those who have the power to turn our ideas into action.

In one of my classes here at Mason, we discussed whether or not the state of the world was hopeless and intractable. A classmate noted that “things just seem so impossible. How could we really change anything?” We must not let those thoughts prevail. As students, as a part of a community of some of the most capable individuals within modern times, we do have the opportunities to do more than just sit around and talk about change, reform and the state of our world.

The point is, we are not limited to just conversation, because you can impact your community. You can talk to a public official. You can draft meaningful policies. You can not only envision the world through a better lens in your mind, but you can also create it within your lifetime. It is not a matter of whether we ‘can’ at this point, it’s a matter of whether we will.

Let’s start doing.

It is possible to make an impact on our world, even as Millennials. The next question to ask yourself now is “Why not let that person be you?”