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I believe in the next generation of leaders.
More than any other in recent memory, the generation now emerging from our educational system believes that just one person - armed with powerful, innovative and disruptive ideas or concepts - can change the world through a "relentless, positive storm." You dream big, do the right thing, set your direction, take your compass and never stray from the path.
I know this runs counter to the general mood of the country right now. People seem uncertain about whether it’s even acceptable to hope for a better future. But the next generation will, I believe, prove the prophets of doom wrong. They will show us the way out of this bewildering uncertainty.
The reason is simple. The next generation - the Millennials - knows that we are, in fact, an Education Nation already. This generation has grown up with a new way of learning. They ask questions in a non-linear fashion, find answers in new or indirect ways - and then connect with their peers, friends and colleagues to make change happen very, very quickly.
What’s more, the next generation is hopeful. They believe they can make a difference. They’re willing to work for it, invest in it. They’re willing to take jobs that pay less, but make a bigger difference. This next generation - the practitioners of this "relentless, positive storm" - is truly post-racial: willing to break molds, shatter stereotypes, and move beyond mean-spirited prejudices.
They communicate in ever-changing ways. Human beings have been telling stories from the dawn of civilization - before there were scientists and doctors and lawyers and businessmen, there were storytellers. It is the one, common thread that runs through the entire history of the human race: stories, or parables, make it easy to understand things beyond our grasp.
This next generation believes in storytelling - ranging from 140 characters at a time or two-minute self-expositions on YouTube and Vimeo, to longer forms of social communication that can reach half-way around the world for answers and solutions. They are willing to tell and share stories that are inspirational, comforting, meaningful and important to our daily lives.
This new generation is also creating a brand-new category that will transform our planet: social entrepreneurs and social innovators. He doesn’t like it when I use him as a prop like this, but my oldest son, Josh Nesbit, is a good example of the social innovators emerging in the Millennial generation. He started a global public health non-profit (Frontline SMS: Medic) while he was still an undergraduate at Stanford.
Social entrepreneurs like Josh think globally, create networks to solve big problems, and tackle challenges that are almost unimaginable. Josh didn’t blink or hesitate when it came time to coordinate an emergency SMS communications system in Haiti after the earthquake. He and a makeshift team just did it - and eventually managed to handle nearly 100,000 emergency text messages after the earthquake hit.
One of the reasons I am so hopeful is that this story is not unique: there are so many stories of next-generation leaders who don’t let anything stop them - who see challenges as there to be met, and problems as there to be solved. They’re not afraid to live with uncertainty. And they know that it takes as much energy to think big as it does to think small - so you might as well go big.
Tens of thousands in this next generation are changing our lives, making them better, relieving suffering, and transforming the planet - right now, even as I write this. They are pursuing social change and becoming forces for good. It is only a matter of time before those efforts change the rest of us.
Jeff Nesbit has been a national journalist, a White House official, the public affairs chief at two science agencies and an author. His latest novel, PEACE - a fictional account of what might happen the day after Israel decides to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities - will be released nationally on Oct. 1.