Ventura County Star -
November 12, 2011
A Generation Entitled to
I've often said
that the so-called Millennial Generation —
born between 1982 and 2003 and parented by
baby boomers and Generation Xers — has a
strong sense of entitlement.
I'm not the only one. Talk to employers,
college professors, human resource managers,
high school teachers or anyone else who
deals on a regular basis with teenagers and
20-somethings. Many of them feel the same
So imagine my surprise when I recently sat
down with a pair of authors who have written
a couple of books on Millennials, and they
told me I was wrong — and so is everyone
In their new book, Millennial Momentum:
How a New Generation Is Remaking America,
Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais explore
the many ways in which this generation of
Americans is impacting everything from
politics to pop culture.
"We don't argue that Millennials have a
sense of entitlement," Winograd told me.
"That is a very common complaint about the
generation. But almost inevitably, that's a
Gen Xer thinking: 'Hey, I had to fight for
everything I got. My parents didn't give me
anything. I couldn't even find them. They
were always working. And now these kids
today are pampered and they expect things to
be just a certain way.'"
Well, speaking as a Gen Xer, I had to ask:
Isn't this true? No, the authors said, it
"Millennials don't think of themselves as
entitled," Winograd said. "They think
they're having a conversation, like they
would with their parents. They're
negotiating. They're not thinking the world
owes them an entitlement. They just think
they have a right to argue for what they
want — which strikes everyone else as
At this point, his co-author jumped in.
"And they think they should be treated as
equals by their parents and the rest of us,"
Hais said. "It's not that they expect any
particular outcome. They just think: 'We
should work this out, and everyone will be
happy. That's how you raised me.'"
In fact, the authors insist, about the only
place that expectations come into play is
when Millennials expect their elders to live
up to their rhetoric.
"They're so used to following the rules,"
Winograd said. "They're so earnest that they
take people at their word. If you say
something, then they think you must really
"Whereas the Xers say: 'It's all a con. You
gotta look for the hidden meanings in what
someone is saying so you know why they're
I had to laugh. These guys may be experts on
Millennials, but they also have my
generation figured out.
Of course, we Xers are cynics. What did you
expect? We got our first civics lesson when
the cartoon hour was interrupted by the
Watergate hearings. Then came the Iran
hostage crisis, skyrocketing inflation, long
lines at gas stations, the Challenger
shuttle explosion, Iran-Contra, etc.
But guess what? We were right. It is all a
con. In politics, or business, or whatever
the field, if you want to know what's going
on, you have to follow the money.
Millennials are a lot more idealistic. They
actually look for solutions to tough
problems, and they think solutions are
possible in any environment.
"They see government as an institution that
... they want to believe in," Hais said. "It
may fail. It may not be doing what they want
it to do, but they really believe that it
can be made to be a force for good in
Winograd agreed and offered a generational
"Boomers have always seen it as their
mission in life to change government to fit
their values, whatever those values are," he
said. "Xers don't trust government. They see
it as the enemy, so their instinct is to
limit its size, scope and power.
"Most Millennials would rather see a
government with more services even if it is
bigger, rather than a government, with less
services that is too small to get things
Hais added: "By the way, it's the only
generation that says that."
I'm not surprised. Wait until these kids
start working full time and paying taxes.
They'll figure out soon enough that big
government is expensive, and that you never
get what you pay for.
Let's see how idealistic they are then.