Why millennials aren’t patriotic — and how to fix it

Not sure if you’re taking today off, but I have some last minute things I’m taking care of so I scooted off to Starbucks to answer a question I got last night on my Facebook.

I was asked, “Are Millennials patriotic?”

The answer may surprise you.

I live in our nation’s Capitol. This time of year Washington, D.C. is looking her absolute finest. There is red, white and blue strung throughout the streets and an air of excitement as locals and tourists pack together on the mall to watch the fireworks explode over the monuments (if you haven’t visited DC for the 4th it is a MUST!)

The 4th of July is my absolute favorite holiday—especially in this city. But it isn’t for many in my generation.

The Millennial generation has been given a hard time for not being “patriotic.”

Every generation of youth goes through it—from the anti-war protests of the Baby Boomers to the dropout culture of the Xers.

But the lack of patriotic youth is different with Millennials.

Here are the facts… 85% of Millennials have no interest serving in the military. Men from Generation X are twice as likely to have served in the military at some point in their lives. Baby Boomers are six times as likely. And a young male in 1963? They were more than 11 times likelier to have served than a Millennial man is today.

According to Pew Research…only about half of Millennials say the phrase “a patriotic person” describes them very well—with 35% saying this is a “perfect” description. Just compare that to 64% of Gen Xers, 75% of Boomers and 81% of Silents who say this describes them very well.

In the 11+ years of researching Millennials I have discovered some interesting, inspiring and daunting truths about my generation.

1. Millennials are more likely to consider themselves citizens of the world than citizens of the United States.
2. Millennials do not believe in American exceptionalism… or at least they would be very hesitant to call America, “The best country in the world.”
3. Millennials take a globalist approach to world affairs and are more concerned with how our actions are perceived and implemented around the world than their parents were at their age.

The cause is threefold.

Millennials are less likely than other generations to associate with political parties, churches or affinity groups. They want to be seen as independent in their thoughts and actions and do not need to be associated with a particular country to feel like they belong here.

Millennials have been raised with anti-bullying campaigns and societal discussions about privilege and access. This has heightened our awareness to those who have and those who have not. This, mixed with how our history was framed in public and higher educated has caused many in my generation to express disappointment in who we are as a world power.

And of course, we were given trophies for participating, which taught us that being #1 isn’t the only goal of a game. It matters how you win the game.

Now before I get emails back about the patriotic Millennials you know and love, hang on. I‘m talking about the majority of Millennials and seeking to give you an explanation on why that is. This is not an editorial on what is wrong with my generation. In truth, I believe Millennials are more equipped to change the world than their older predecessors were at their age. And Millennial awareness of the rest of the world is an incredible asset as we take on positions of leadership and influence.

I have attended naturalization ceremonies and celebrated with our newest citizens their ownership in America. There is nothing more beautiful. As you celebrate America’s birthday with your family and friends, consider what Millennials love about America may not be what you love about America. It’s up to you to find out why.

The takeaway:

  • Ask questions about what the flag and what about America seems special to them.
  • Share your experience of feeling patriotic. When were you first proud to be American?
  • Ask if they know how other countries celebrate their independence.

Now read: How do we teach patriotism to a generation that seems uninterested?

This article was originally published by The Millennial Solution. It was republished with permission.

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