Grow up and vote!

November 4, 2008, 9:33 PM UTC
Fortune

What a day, right? I’m on my way to vote and, frankly, I look a little crazy because I’m so excited that I hardly slept a wink. And it isn’t difficult to see why. So much of the Gen Y discussion we’ve had over the last year or two has been about our entitlement, our coddled youth, our lack of accountability, perspective, and work ethic. Our generation, I’ve been told so many times, hasn’t really been through anything. (Sure, there was 9/11, but could that one day compare to  prolonged coming-of-age crises like Vietnam or the Great Depression?)

Well, I think it’s about time we put that argument to rest. Maybe two wars and $4-a-gallon gas this summer weren’t enough to get us the generational street cred, but surely the last few months have finally elevated us to that highest echelon of suffering. As Thomas Friedman put it in his column on Monday, “Never has one generation [i.e., them] spent so much of its children’s [i.e., us] wealth in such a short period of time with so little to show for it as in the Bush years.” Thanks, Mom and Dad.

And for the record, it’s only just beginning. Whatever entitlement we have exhibited will, I think, be quickly quashed by the rapidly approaching obligations of our future. Not only will it cost far more (and be much more necessary, given the competitive landscape) to put our kids through college and beyond, we will also be caring for parents who are living longer and saving less, often because of the circumstances they’ve faced, like layoffs, rising healthcare costs, and of course, the high price of raising us.

All that to say, please, for the love of goodness, go vote. Whatever the immediate stakes for our country, the long-term significance of this day for us simply can’t be overstated. When sociologists look back at the formative moments of our lifetime, will 2008 be the year whose financial crisis began all our troubles, or the one whose election set the tone for our country’s recovery? Every election, there’s big talk of the youth vote, and just about every election, it amounts to a big pile of hype. (Howard Dean, anyone?) So this year, think of it as a life vote. Whatever your views, whomever you support, you actually do have a chance to shape the rest of our collective life today. Take it. Or don’t — and your friends (and I!) will hold you personally responsible for every calamity that befalls us forever more.