Midwest Voices

Steve Johnson: Don’t judge the millennials until you know us

Steve Johnson
Steve Johnson jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Millennials are often stereotyped as a homogenous group, but we’re extraordinarily diverse. We may meet online, but we long for the intimacy of friendship and handwritten letters.

We grew up with computers, cellphones, the Internet and Facebook, yet we love vinyl records and vintage or retro collections. We’re well-educated, often at local universities.

Some doubt millennials’ work ethic or see an entitled generation awaiting our parents and grandparents’ combined $59 trillion inheritance. But we are often entrepreneurial, driven and may have multiple jobs, a consulting business or work in the family business. Some question millennials’ attention span, awash in a sea of smartphones, yet our generation relished literary bricks such as “Infinite Jest” and “Harry Potter,” and epic films like “Anne of Green Gables” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Some think we’re digital addicts, yet many millennials love the glorious beauty of Kansas City’s autumn colors or the sunrise or sunset. Some critique our gauche taste in art, music or architecture (quelle horror! #sarcasm), yet you’re more likely to find a millennial strolling through the Nelson-Atkins or Kemper museums, enjoying First Fridays, the Symphony, Opera, Ballet, or the American Royal, meeting the past at the Liberty Memorial, or admiring Kansas City’s architectural gems than you are to find us deconstructing an ink blob, listening to loud music, or designing ugly minimalist buildings.

We enjoy savoring a glass of wine, Boulevard beer, or a cocktail with others after a long day’s work. Some think we’re socially apathetic, but we care deeply, follow the news and sports, cheer on the Royals’ great wins, love Old Glory, and are active in our churches and faith communities.

Yes, we may take selfies or groupies on our smartphones, but as you chuckle, remember that life is short and precious, and we all want to freeze those joyous moments in time. You might even find yourself sneaking a selfie, groupie, or picture of your gourmet meal — don’t worry, we won’t tell your Facebook friends.

Kansas City is ranked as one of the best cities for millennials in the country — and no wonder. We are proud Kansas Citians — we have friendly, diverse, interesting people, great culture, the best barbecue, fun sports, beautiful scenery, strong jobs and health care, and affordable living.

We’ve traveled the world, but for many millennials, there’s no place like home, Kansas City. When you encounter a millennial — even one with a shaggy beard, pink hair, or quirky piercings checking their phone or drawing nature — don’t judge us as a lost generation of youth, an exemplar of America going to hell in a hand basket; it’s morning in America for a fresh generation, so introduce yourself and share your journey with us.

As the Plaza’s “Married Love” sculpture reminds us, Winston Churchill is a role model for millennials, bridging two centuries as we do — the 19th and 20th in his case. A man of action and intellect, he was a self-made millionaire and married his beloved Clementine.

But as a young Member of Parliament, he forgot his speech and was mocked for his lisp. In 1915 during the Great War, his Gallipoli invasion plan failed miserably and cost countless lives. Yet Churchill defied defeat, shaking off these crushing failures (as Taylor Swift sings), and rallied the free world to victory in World War II.

America is a great land of exceptional people, a laboratory of blessed opportunity, and millennials are our last best hope for this new century. Millennials are Kansas City’s future — let’s share captivating stories and new adventures together over coffee.


Steve Johnson is a millennial and an attorney in Kansas City. He studied history at K-State University and earned his law degree at the University of Kansas. He welcomes correspondence at steve@johnsonlawkc.com. Twitter: @fountainpenlaw.