Courtesy Hartford Courant, Josiah H. Brown

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Sunday, April 24, 1994










A 1992 graduate of Yale College, is a special assistant to the director of the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center in New York.









As a 24-year-old Connecticut native living in New York City, I challenge the perception that my contemporaries and I are part of a lost or especially nondescript generation. Indeed, while generalizations about particular eras - the turbulent '60s, the sexually liberated '70s, the ``me generation'' of the '80s - may be possible, such categorizations tend to obscure as much as enlighten.

In the current case, teenagers and so-called twentysomethings are said to be notably directionless, dispirited, self- and video-oriented. The characters in the movie ``Reality Bites'' supposedly typifying these characteristics.

The MTV Generation or Generation X are often invoked as names to describe us. Undoubtedly, we do, on the whole, watch a lot of television, and we are studying and seeking work in a time of fundamental, anxiety- inducing global economic change. But sweeping statements about us are prone to error and often unfair.

We are not without ideals. I have worked on several political and environmental-protection campaigns, and my first job out of college was on the staff of U.S. Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District, whose strong convictions I share.

Dozens of my former high school classmates have followed career paths in human services, academia, philanthropy, youth education and medical research. Many of my contemporaries are also active as volunteer tutors and mentors and welcome President Clinton's ambitious national- service initiative. In fact, an established publication, ``The American Freshman: Twenty-Five Year Trends,'' documents a significant increase in social consciousness and activism among first-year college students since the mid-1980s.

Like their counterparts in previous decades, these young adults are grappling with difficult questions of identity, lifestyle and employment. But don't let superficial factors indict an entire generation. Take MTV. I have a friend who, during rare vacation periods, treasures the opportunity to spend countless hours relaxing before a screen of music videos. This friend also happens to be a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology.

So let's abandon the misleading term Generation X, which, while appropriately suggesting the ambiguities of our age, has assumed the unjustified connotation of vacuity. Rather than glibly categorizing millions of Americans, let's wait a few years before reaching judgment. There certainly are plenty of social and environmental problems that my generation can help our society confront.

Who knows? We might fulfill the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s 30-year cycle theory about generational involvement in public affairs and realize our dreams as the Clinton-Gore Generation.

For now, we're the Generation To Be Determined or To Be Announced.