As baby boomers age out of politics, a new guard emerges: millennials, maligned for their laziness, will lead the charge in tomorrow’s politics. According to Massachusetts Senate President Stan Rosenberg, for those born between 1980 and 2000, there’s a significant disconnect between civic engagement and good ol’ fashioned state government. “Research shows that this generation of people are very, very civically minded, and very engaged, but they don’t work through government,” Rosenberg said in an interview with Boston Public Radio on Monday. “They work as volunteers in soup kitchens and homeless shelters and serving on community boards, because they want to see the immediate reaction and response to their work, and the immediate results, and they think government takes too long and is maybe not so good at doing what it should be doing.”
According to Rosenberg, the goal is to bridge the gap from the soup kitchen to the voting booth, something he hopes to accomplish with his new Millennial Engagement Initiative. “We need to engage this next generation,” Rosenberg said. “We need to engage them for them to understand that the decisions that are made in government have dramatic impact on their lives, and that they should have a voice and be part of identifying the agenda, identifying the potential solutions, policies, programs, and public investments that we make to help make the world in the image that they, as millennials, the people of the future, need to have us respond to.”
To connect with millennials, Rosenberg says, you must go to the source...which means that a lot of events, forums, and meetups will be held online. “We’ve already had our first roundtable with millennials out in Western Mass, we’re going over to Facebook this afternoon to meet with some folks, and next week we’re doing a Twitter town hall, and then we have the Democratic and Republican Young Dems and Young Republicans coming around the same table at the same time to meet with Democratic and Republican state senators,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg says the actual connections happen at these events, once members of the older generations are willing to listen. “First, you go out and you listen,” he said. “You just open the door, open your eyes, and open your ears.”
The Millennial Engagement Initiative plans to host up to 15 events, and then create an agenda to create and shape policies, with the help of local Millennials. “You think about disruptive technology, you think about college debt, you think about the fact that these young people are out there trying to find appropriate housing because they want to stay in the Massachusetts economy…” Rosenberg said. We’re going to engage with them and come up with some ideas.”
Stan Rosenberg is the Massachusetts Senate President. To hear his full interview with Boston Public Radio, click on the audio link above.