Looking around while remembering my days as a late teen or twenty-something at punk shows and other events, it felt funny to be the slightly older person in the room. Fifteen years ago, cynicism was king, and irony ruled the day. Not so anymore.
My friend and I went outside to get some air, and we were approached by a group of revelers. "Hi! Tell us about your costume. Is that homemade? It's really incredible!"
The group of people smiled sincerely at us, they weren't afraid to engage. Being friendly was easy for them, and they listened as my friend described his very funny concept: he was Hudson Yards.
They all began enthusiastically sharing stories about their own experiences at Hudson Yards and how dystopian they felt it was. One recounted a job he had briefly at a retail store in Hudson Yards.
They were very critical of the money spent on the development, and questioned why it was allowed to be built. Then each of these party-goers told us the story of their costume, introduced us to their partners, chatted and involved new people.
I was slightly taken aback. It's easy to say that this was the friendliest, least cynical party I had ever attended. I watched as groups of all gender identities and couples of all different permutations chatted, greeted each other, ate pizza and danced.
It was an accepting, loving, warm environment. It was cool without being elitist. It was...Generation Z.
At my job, I work with 18 to 30 year olds on global citizenship education opportunities. I have gotten to know so many clear-eyed, worldly, intelligent and motivated young people through this. Young people who want to be challenged, want to work together, and find kindness to be of paramount importance.
While the caricature of this new generation coming into power is one that is screen obsessed, shallow and social media focused, I have to tell you that is the wrong interpretation.
This is a group of young people who are really paying attention to the government, to global and local crises, to community. These are young people who are not only ready to lead, they are already doing it.
On Twitter I see Gen Z, or Zoomers, engaging in thoughtful analysis of our government, our environment and our world. They are asking important questions and not taking weak answers. They are demanding change, and I truly believe we need them.
In my work and life, I am excited to get to know these young people. I want to give them more opportunities to be engaged and in charge. To be honest, they give me hope in a sometimes hopeless world.
Every day, I am disappointed by the cowardice, weakness, and lack of moral courage I see in so many of our leaders. But I have great faith that the Zoomers won't let me down.
I'm excited for their rise, and I'm ready for the new kind of society they are ready to build.