The 50th Anniversary tributes to the Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights marches playing out on TV, radio, and in print marks the logical starting point of what will be a six to eight year commemoration of significant activism—and, ultimately, lasting social and cultural change—initiated and achieved by the Baby Boomer generation. But what is as or more interesting is how the commemoration of Selma and the series of human rights and anti-war events and achievements that follow provide the impetus for reflecting upon the growing activism of the next and largest generation in American history: the Millennials.
These two largest of all generations, described as “the former hippies and the current hipsters,” are turning out to have much more in common than the Boomers had with the Silent Generation that preceded them. The whole concept of the then-derivative word “hippie”—introduced in New York in 1964, but not popularized until 1967—was intended as an insult toward younger adults of the day, whom the previous generation labeled as unpatriotic, uninformed, and naïve. And it represented the very definition of the “generation gap” that has become part of the American lexicon. But, and significantly so, this is increasingly not the case between the Boomers and Millennials of today.
These two largest generations in American history share a fundamental belief in enacting social change. Millennials, in fact, may turn out to be the most socially conscious generation in history. And, in many interesting ways, Boomers are actually following the lead of Millennials, rather than the other way around. According to Pew Research, the generation with the fastest growth in acceptance of same sex marriage between 2012 and 2013 was the Baby Boomers, not the Millennials, for whom this issue has been the primary human rights issue for some time.
Also consider the tremendous pressure that the students involved in the Divest Harvard movement are putting on Harvard president Drew Faust to pull the institution’s investment in carbon-producing fossil fuels. She herself a marcher on Selma who has described that experience as “a moral imperative,” Faust will be hard-pressed not to recognize the similar moral imperative that her students are feeling on the environmental issue, perhaps the defining issue for this generation.
This dynamic of attitudinal shifts—especially when there is convergence, or coming together—fascinates us. This consumer behavior is both interesting and prevalent enough to warrant designation as one of our top consumer trends for 2015, COALESCENCE, which we describe as Millennials and Baby-Boomers starting to see things more and more alike.
To read more about this fascinating trend, check out our trend brief: