An Open Letter to Millennials… Thank You for What I See in You

Dear Generation NOW,

There is a lot of talk about you in the world. Everyone is trying to figure you out and define who you are.

Here are just a few of the words and phrases that have been used to label you:

  • The ME Generation
  • Spoiled and entitled
  • Arrogant and narcissistic
  • Overly idealistic; actually believing you can change the world

What do I think? I think the people who toss these labels around spend very little time with you, and no time trying to understand you.

I have shared many times what I see when I’ve spent time with you.

I want to thank you for what causes others to deride you:

Your Optimism

You believe in the future. You believe in the good of people. And, yes you believe that one person can make a difference, because you have likely experienced it first-hand. Listening to you speak about the world gives me hope and inspiration.

Protect your optimism because the future demands it. Protect your sense of possibility. Without it, we despair, and it’s hard to change the world from despair.

Your Idealism

It is so refreshing to see you enter the classroom and the workplace with a “ready to take over the world” attitude. Although we offer advice and remind you to learn from those who came before you, your idealism is connected to your knowledge of the good that can be created when we create a more peaceful, just, sustainable and healthier world.

You are idealistic because you bear witness everyday to “impossibilities” becoming reality.

Your World View

When I was your age, I didn’t think seriously about creating world peace, the plight of the environment, or finding the solution to problems in developing nations. Thank goodness you are not like me. You are more conscious and conscientious than my generation was at your age.

Protect your optimism because the future demands it. Protect your sense of possibility. Without it, we despair, and it’s hard to change the world from despair.

You see problems in the world – globally and locally – and strive to understand, learn and discover instead of hoping others do something about them.

Your Impatience

The generations before you have been bottlenecked by corporate hierarchies and mounds of red tape. You understand the problems we face today are complex and yet need fast solutions. I applaud your impatience and intolerance for apathy and inaction.

And while the world around you searches for “best practices” or convenes a committee to consider the next strategy; you are unwilling to wait, and take action with courage and boldness.

Your Sense of Entitlement

You believe it’s your right, and indeed moral obligation, not to occupy the planet as passive observers. Thank you for the role you play in laying out a different agenda and model for what it means to be a global citizen.

Your only entitlement is your unprecedented chance to act on the injustice you encounter.

Your Leadership

You want to do work that makes a difference. You’re willing to lead the change. You don’t plan to wait until you become financially comfortable to pay-it-forward, serve those less-fortunate, and mentor.

You understand the problems we face today are complex and yet need fast solutions. I applaud your impatience and intolerance for apathy and inaction.

You dare to change the world, now.

Your Passion and Compassion

You are clearly so passionate and compassionate about our world at a time when all you hear is despair, cynicism and most adults talking about what is wrong and  impossible to change. It is my wish that you continue to be known for your perseverance and passion, for decisions based on what is globally right, and for working together toward achieving common goals.

Thank you for not listening to us when we tell you that you are too young, too selfish, too naive, too egotistical, or too optimistic to make a difference.

You are a generation willing to DO something grand and challenging. It’s refreshing, really. And courageous.

I’m passionate about how the world is changing and what that means for you. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

With Love and Respect,



Art by: SuperDuperLlama

My life path has always been about teaching and communication. My twenty years as an educator and my passionate pursuit of literacy and learning, gave me the healthy dose of courage and skills that have led me through a wonderful variety of experiences, including classroom and University teaching, instructional coaching, research, writing, publishing, corporate training, and starting my own business.

  • Al Smith

    Thank you Angela. This is fantastic. I immediately thought of my 18 year old step daughter. She is off to college next month. Wow. I will be sending this to her, along with encouragement and love.
    ……… and Thank you for all you do, especially all your work, belief and support for young people. #YouMatter is awesome. You obviously CARE. It is very refreshing.
    With gratitude,

  • TedCoine

    Angela, as a strongly impatient, optimistic idealist myself, let me thank you for encouraging our younger kindred spirits before their spirits are broken. We couldn’t be prouder and more delighted to have teamed up with you to get your essential message across!

    Let’s change the world for the MUCH better, together. Who’s with us?

  • cyn

    I love this post. It echos a lot of what I think of most young people today– they don’t get enough credit for their perspective and the possibilities they bring to the table. Thank you for articulating my thoughts so well :)

  • Alessia

    Thank you :) I’m so far the only Millennial to speak but I thought of many others who are described by your words.

  • Y-Millenials

    loving this!! this is what my film is all about, helping people understand where our generation is coming from!!


    Thank you. Needed this

  • John Thurlbeck

    Hi Angela ~ I loved the post most because I have worked with young people 11 – 25 years for nearly four decades and the positive elements you describe in the post have, more often than not, been those that have featured greatly in their engagement with me throughout that time. As an eternal optimist, I also believe they will be the strengths of our future generations to come! Thank you!

    • AngelaMaiers

      Did not mean it to be in any way Paul. I am authentically and admittedly passionate about ensuring that young people understand their power and position.

  • Tom Klobucher

    Angela, Awesome post! We all need to celebrate the giftedness of Millennials…in fact, the giftedness of all four, and soon to be five, generations that we will all be interacting with by 2020. If we can get this right, and become generational coaches to each age group, and leverage, share and learn from each other’s giftedness, this synergistic decade, and the engagement that it will produce, will be amazing. Learn more at:

  • Matthew Fritz

    Excellent message well received by my daughter (14) and son (10). We are growing them for a world they will someday inherit–and is full of challenges. The words we use today have the power to motivate and inspire them to rise to that challenge and willingly accept responsibility. Integrity, leadership and character are the foundations we create with them today–and your words build strong bridges for tomorrow!

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  • paullawleyjones

    Is it just me who finds this a little condescending? “Everyone is trying to figure you out and define who you are.”–and then you do just that.

  • danperezfilms

    Optimism, idealism, a positive world view, leadership, passion? Sounds like the generation who grew up in the 60s – it might even apply to every generation of the past century. In this same generation that is so beloved on this particular site are the arrogant, self-centered, and spoiled brats that every other generation has had to deal with, this one probably more than any other (thanks, social media!).
    Generalizations are the norm for this site so I’m not surprised by yet another such post but a little bit that it comes from you (Ted Coine fails to surprise me any more). Let’s stop generalizing and kowtowing to generation Y just because they make up most of the readership of this type of blog and let’s remember that every generation looks down on the generation that comes after. This generation and what they actually accomplish will be judged in the decades to come, until then, let’s stop making them seem as if they’re some special generation unlike any we’ve ever seen. They’re not. They do read more blogs than any other…

  • Kushaan Shah

    Hi Angela!

    As a college student who loves to solve problems and embrace the idea of world change, I loved reading your article and thank you for the encouragement! I have been reading your writing for some time and love your philosophy. Regarding this article, I do hope that we see more students with these qualities. I have noticed more and more students stepping into this “millennial” framework and it definitely has to do a lot with growth in scaling technologies, social media, and a burgeoning trend of networks (like Net Impact) dedicated to careers in social change.

    The one thing that I would also advise to millennials is a balance. Keeping an idealistic and optimistic mind is great but I have seen a lot of friends burn out as they ignore the exigencies of the present day. I am a huge advocate of passion, compassion, and leadership but I think there’s less emphasis on the importance of drawing a line as it has become almost synonymous with “quitting”. I think it’s a very strong strength for the mind to realize when something is not working and can be done better. To experience failure, step back, and take another road. I do not intend for this to sound discouraging at all; we just need to realize that our most precious opportunity cost is time. Idealism is a commendable quality; at the same time, people should not be afraid to quit or afraid to fail. Only thing I would add, but I think this article was beautiful!

  • Russell Helwig


    Great article. Every generation acts, thinks and speaks from their heart on the things they see that are not working. That passion to ” fix it ” is the whole reason all of us as
    leaders choose to walk the path of leadership. This generation has watched a lot
    of things happen in the last 5 years; I applaud them and encourage them to
    speak up and change this world.

    We need as many people as we can to step forward, sign up and help join all of us that want to fix this economy and make this world a better place for THIS generation. “Welcome Generation NOW…glad to have you on the team ! ” — Russ Helwig

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  • AngelaMaiers

    That absolutely means the world Ted! This is just the beginning! I am so honored and thrilled to be taking the journey with you all!

  • AngelaMaiers


  • AngelaMaiers

    You are so very welcome Al! Keep up all the fantastic and inspiring work! So thrilled to be learning and leading with you!

  • AngelaMaiers

    Thank you Tom! We not only can; we MUST get this right! I am so excited to be connecting and will check out your amazing resources. Thank you for sharing!

  • AngelaMaiers

    There is nothing like being in the presence of young genius! They not only inspire me; they remind me that I want to be that kind of learner and leader. Thank you for all you are doing and for your comment!

  • AngelaMaiers

    You are very welcome. I would so love to learn more about your film. Can you email me at

  • AngelaMaiers

    Alessia, I so appreciate your voice and your comment. Please share your story and successes with the world; we need them to know how lucky we are to have your passionate contributions!

  • AngelaMaiers

    My pleasure. Totally agree we undervalue and underestimate our young talent. Anything you would add to the post?

  • John Thurlbeck

    You are very welcome Angela! I definitely agree about being in the presence of young genius! Thank you for all you are doing and for promoting this perspective!

  • Y-Millenials

    sorry it took me so long to reply, I will gladly send you an email:) thank you for expressing your interest!

  • AngelaMaiers

    Matthew that means so much coming from you! Your children are at such a crucial age. So exciting that they have you to share this with them.

  • AngelaMaiers

    Thank you- I look forward to it!

  • Mark Moran

    Dan, do you have anything to offer but criticism – and stereotypes likely based primarily on your own social media consumption?

    The fact that you think Gen Y makes up most of the readership of this blog shows how little you understand it.

    GenY is different – it is special – and it will change the world, despite the naysayers of our generation seeking to drag it down to our level.

    You want to move beyond generalities? Here’s a follow-up to this article (, where we (I’m Angela’s co-founder at Choose2Matterand sometimes writing partner) cite 9 specific cases of young people doing amazing things to change the world. The only hard part about writing the article was stopping at 9; we could have quickly assembled 100 or more terrific stories of members of Gen Y.

    This is a generation that wants to matter, much more so than the one that precedes it (see

    While you openly deride this generation now and wait for “decades to come” to see it it redeems itself in your eyes, many of us who frequent this site are doing all we can to encourage and mentor Gen Y, to foster and nurture the remarkable spirit we see in it.

  • danperezfilms

    First of all, I’m not deriding your beloved generation, I’m just not ready to hand them the keys to the universe like some people are. Secondly, WOW! you found 9 young people who are “changing the world”? You could have even found 100 remarkable achievements by Gen Y? Gee, your ‘History of the World’ book must only go back 5 years.

    Give me a break…

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