New kids on the block in sync

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Published: Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 3:12 p.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Jan. 15, 2016 3:35 p.m. CST

CHICAGO – At about a third of the U.S. population, millennials are the largest generation in the country. How will the Uber-riding, smartphone-hugging group of 20- to 30-somethings fare governing the state?

"There's never been a better time," said state Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, who appeared Friday with state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, at a live-streaming news conference at the Thompson Building in Chicago.

Guzzardi and Demmer announced that they will be co-chairmen of the Illinois Future Caucus, in association with the national Millennial Action Project (MAP), to bring to government new ways of thinking based on millennial experiences, including increased political cooperation.

"We have a responsibility to transcend the partisanship that has caused such hardship in this state, and to build solutions for the problems that are coming down the road for Illinois," Guzzardi said.

"We, the next generation of the state, are committed to working together," he added.

Millennials hold a strong sense of community, are bulldogs when it comes to guarding civil liberties, and show enthusiasm for social contribution. They are technologically connected, value creativity in their work, and have close relationships with family.

But the new kids on the block also hold deep distrust and low confidence in government, according to Steven Olikara, MAP co-founder and president, who said that although they might be the youngest in the Legislature, creating this communications platform is about "being the adults in the room."

The political logjam is unacceptable.

The Illinois Future Caucus will address some of the key issues for millennials relating to technology, education, and criminal justice reforms and regulations, Demmer said, but this is just the beginning.

"This isn't about seeing the same way," or political uniformity, he said.

Demmer recalled his first-term campaign to represent the 90th District in which some people asked questions about his age, skeptical about why "a young guy" would want to get involved in Springfield politics.

His response was always the same.

"The issues that we face today, the decisions that we make today, have a long and profound impact on the state of Illinois,' Demmer said. "They're going to be issues that our generation deals with for decades.

"When you look at the General Assembly, we have members in their 70s, 60s, 50s, 40s. Why shouldn't we have members in their 20s and 30s, who bring a different generational perspective, who have a new way of thinking, who see the world a little differently?"