What Obama’s Jobs Speech Means for Millennials
When President Obama gives his much-anticipated jobs speech on Thursday night, every slice of the population will hope to hear something different.
Corporate executives want lower taxes and less regulation to boost job creation. Others in the business community think the government needs to be more involved and inject federal money to foster growth.
Millions of other Americans could care less about the president’s long-term strategy. What’s most important to them right now is finding a job, earning a paycheck and providing for their families.
But what about us, the Millennial generation? We’re relatively new to the workforce and most likely don’t have children to support, mortgages to pay off and other financial burdens that come with being a full-fledged adult — well, other than school loans.
What do we want to hear from President Obama on Thursday night?
The answer has four parts but one overarching theme: Mr. President, don’t just dazzle us with your eloquence (why we loved you in 2008). Instead, lay out a plan and show us how we can help you design a stronger economy and meaningful future.
Here’s what Millenials are looking for:
A bold but practical tone
Three years ago, all of us (admit it, you too) swooned over then-Senator Barack Obama’s every word on the campaign trail. He was just so damn cool. We believed in his language of “change” and flooded voting booths to elect him.
Now, the tune has changed. Thousands of young people struggle to find a job and enter the labor market for the very first time.
Political observers and pundits have called on the president to be “bold” with his jobs speech. Lofty rhetoric is great, but Millennials need pragmatism, too. What kinds of industries will be around for the next 30-40 years? How can we get a foothold in those companies, master the skills necessary to assume leadership roles and then become industry leaders in our 40s and 50s?
A focus on manufacturing
Last week, GOP presidential nominee Jon Huntsman laid out his own jobs plan that stresses the need for a robust manufacturing sector, not just a service-based model where we conduct business in khakis and loafers from inside air-conditioned offices.
It might be tough to hear, but the president should echo Huntsman’s plan and tell Americans that we can’t regain our economic footing without a strong manufacturing base. Our generation excels at technical mastery (particularly online), but that shouldn’t excuse us from also making products with our hands. What should America produce, and how can Millennials play an integral role?
A call to tap into the power of the Millennial mind
By now it’s pretty clear: our generation tells everyone else how to use the Internet. We own the social-media space and keep pumping out newer and better ways to connect digitally.
In his speech, the president will no doubt encourage businesses to innovate and develop more cutting-edge technology. To get there, he should leverage the Millennial mind. Put our best and brightest on committees and councils that focus on jobs. Ask us for the smartest and most efficient ways to run companies. It’s time to tap into our collective online brainpower, and let us help guide this country back to prominence.
A reality check — both for us and for the President
If Obama wants to be president for another four years, his tone has got to change. Three years ago, Millennials were willing to believe anything he said. This time around, we’re often skeptical of his leadership. The president needs to level with us about the state of our economy and the work necessary to put our country back on its feet.
We then have to decide as a generation whether this country is worth rescuing from mounting unemployment, severe debt and a general sense that we are weakening on the world stage. It’s the president’s duty to inspire and provide a clear path, but we must carry the torch. One person — not even the president — can’t solve the problems of 300 million.
There’s plenty riding on the president’s job speech Thursday night. But the real challenge is how we choose to respond.
Brazenites, what else are you hoping to hear Obama say Thursday night?
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