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Breeze – Courier Writer
TAYLORVILLE — After my article, “ Will Millenials ever achieve the American Dream,” was published, I received feedback from a few sources. Someone who reached out to me with feedback was Taylorville native and U.S. Representative Rodney Davis. He wanted to discuss the sense of hopelessness that many in my generation experience.
Representative Davis said, “I don’t want you to feel as though you don’t have a chance as a Millenial. If that was the reason you wrote it, to get people to think about it, you made me think about it.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Representative Davis and getting his thoughts on this generation’s future.
RB: What hopes do you think this generation has?
RD: I used to have a poster hanging in my office at my last job and it’s a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “The future belongs to those who believes in the beauty of their dreams.”
It’s a great quote because there’s one thing about this country that I found, it doesn’t matter who you are, what background you have. It doesn’t matter what career path you choose. You can make a success for it for yourself and for your family if you do a couple things. First, work hard at whatever you do. Second, get a good education. Thirdly, be nice to people. The last one I’ve added, you’ve got to laugh at yourself. When you do all those things, I’ve never seen anybody that hasn’t had a successful career.
RB: What obstacles do you think this generation faces?
RD: You face a lot of government mandated obstacles. The economy was basically shut down. We are still operating in a COVID environment that should be a risk management issue instead of zero tolerance. We’re never going to get this virus away from society. It’s out there. We’ve got to learn to manage that risk and millenials, the survivability of COVID is 99.9%. We all know families who have been adversely impacted who have lost love ones because of COVID related issues. Your generation has to stand up and say enough is enough. We know how to manage our risks and we’ll do that. It’s the same thing with the “climate fear bubble.” How long have you and your generation been told that somehow the world is going to end in 12 years because we didn’t do enough to fix climate change even though the United States only controls 16% of global emissions? If I went through school being told that 12 years from now the world is going to end as we know it because of man made climate change only here in the United States of America, what hope would you have? Why think about a career? I get it. Your generation has been told that you’re not going to have a future. I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong.
RB: How do you think the economy has changed from your generation to the current one?
RD: In March of 2020, we had the best economy of my life. Unemployment was at historic low levels. All of a sudden the pandemic hit and that changed things. Here we are today stuck in a pandemic response in states like Illinois. We have more jobs available in this country today than we had pre-pandemic. We just go to figure out a way to get people into the jobs that they want to make their career. So economically, job-wise we are doing well. But, economically, governmentally, and policy-wise, we are not. Inflation is a tax increase on you and every American. The inflation rate right now is 6.8%. That means you can get a six percent raise and still have one percent less money than what you had before the inflationary pressures grew. I have a philosophy on the economy, that you don’t spend trillions more to address inflation. That actually leads to inflation. So, economically we’re in a good spot to be able to recover but I worry about this constant overspending in Washington that will cost your generation and beyond.
RB: How do you think the world has changed from your generation to this one?
RD: When I graduated college, we didn’t even have the widely available Internet. Yea, I’m that old. This generation has access to more information at their fingertips on their cellphones at faster speeds than all other generations in the history of the world combined. But unfortunately, because we have access to all that information, it’s easy to funnel yourself into one bucket politically because you’re only getting news from sources you may agree with. It leads to much more polarization and that’s what’s different from when I was growing up.
RB: Do you have plans to make things better for this generation’s future?
RD: Number one, it’s reading your story and knowing that I can come and talk to you about what I believe I see. My message to you and your generation is dream and dream big. Doesn’t mean that you’re not going to lose. My goal for your generation is to remind you we live in the greatest country in the history of the world. The opportunities that we have here compared to some of the countries that I’ve been blessed in this job to be able to travel to.
RB: What struggles did your generation have with the American Dream?
RD: We were told the exact same things you were told. We were told this world was going to freeze or there was going to be a nuclear war some day. It was harder to get outside of your community because you didn’t know as many people. Now, you can get to know people all over the globe and have that comfort factor to be more global in a sense.
RB: Do you think previous generations laid the groundwork for this generation’s sense of hopelessness?
RD: My generation have told you the world is going to end in 12 years because we haven’t shut down every coal mine in the world. My generation has helped create this fear for your generation. I like to be a voice that says, “no, that’s not true.”
We’re going to give you the same opportunities if not more opportunities than what we had because you have that ability to think globally. Whereas my generation didn’t. You could do it but it was more difficult to expand your sphere of influence. My generation has given your generation less confidence in achieving the American Dream. I would encourage your generation to go outside the United States and appreciate what we really have.
RB: Do you think degrees are worth less in this generation?
RD: Degrees are worth the same. A degree is only a piece of paper that gets to you this level that may get you to the door for an interview. It’s up to you, no matter what degree you have, to sell yourself as a future employee of that organization or what career path you want to choose. So degrees are only worth as much as the individual who has that piece of paper is willing to do to work hard, to continue to educate yourself on the job. Are you nice to people in the workplace? Are you a good coworker? Are you laughing? If you do those things, it doesn’t matter what the degree says, but you will build your career in whatever career path you want to choose.
After speaking with Representative Davis, I realized that although we do not share all the same views on my generation’s struggles, it is important that these conversations are had so we can work towards a better future.