This post by RCA
President Colin Mills was originally published in Reston Patch.
I’ve always been a political junkie.  Washington didn’t have a baseball team when I
was a kid, so the Caps, Skins, and politics were my favorite local sports.  When I was 13, inspired by watching the ’92 conventions,
I held my own convention in our basement, for my own “U.S. Party.”  Over the years, I’ve watched more C-SPAN than
any sane person should.  And I have a
collection of hundreds of campaign buttons, some dating back as far as Woodrow
Wilson’s time.
Given my politics-loving bona fides, I was naturally
disappointed by an article
from the Atlantic
that a longtime friend sent me last week.  The article suggested that the Millennial
generation isn’t interested in working in politics and government.  Millennials are very service-oriented and
want to make the world a better place. 
But unlike previous generations, they reject the idea that public
service is the way to do that.
Why aren’t they interested? 
They believe that Washington is full of selfish people mired in
pointless partisan battles.  They believe
that politicians aren’t focused on the right priorities.  They believe that working their way up in
politics or government would take too long. 
And, most depressingly, they believe that political involvement doesn’t
yield results.  They want to change the
world, but not by running for office or serving in government.
As I said, reading this article brought me down, at least at
first.  As I’ve stated
, our civic institutions only function if our citizens believe in
them and are willing to participate in them. 
The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington has brought
out some terrific stories, and we’ve seen how the March and the civil rights
movements inspired a lot of good people (like our own Senator Janet Howell) to
pursue a life in public service.
And some of the beliefs expressed by the younger generation
can be self-fulfilling prophecies.  If
noble-minded and good people won’t run for office because they believe that
politics is for the selfish and the corrupt, then eventually the only candidates
we have will be selfish and
corrupt.  If this idealistic and service-minded
generation can’t reverse that trend, who can?
But then I read the article again, and I was inspired by a
different idea.  Millennials may not be
interested in “public service” as we’ve traditionally defined it, but they are
interested in serving the public in different ways.  One professor suggests that once the younger
generation rises to prominence, government may “evolve into a mere ‘platform’
that creates room for groups of citizens to do start-up ad-hoc projects or for
small government groups to provide services in a coordinated manner.”
Once I noticed that sentence, my ears perked up.  Because “groups of citizens [doing] start-up
ad-hoc projects” describes exactly what we’re doing at RCA.  We might just be the wave of the future!
If you think about it, organizations like RCA are perfectly
tailored to the kind of service that the Millennial generation wants to
provide.  They’re interested in community
service and making the world a better place; RCA is composed of citizens who
are serving toward making Reston a better place and ensuring that we remain a
special community in the future.  They’re
interested in working outside the system; RCA works outside the system.  They don’t want to get caught up in partisan
trench warfare; RCA is a non-partisan organization whose only interest is
discovering creative solutions to Reston’s issues.  They want to be able to start projects from
the ground up and pursue multiple interests; RCA has the flexibility to move
from issue to issue as the community’s priorities change, and we’re always open
to taking on new issues and initiatives. 
They don’t want to spend years climbing up some bureaucratic hierarchy;
RCA is a grass-roots organization where anyone who’s smart, committed, and
willing to work can take on an important role right away.
And just as young do-gooders could benefit from signing on
with a group like RCA, so too can RCA and other organizations benefit from
Millennials being involved.  As I’ve mentioned
, the pioneer generation of Restonians, which has done so much to
shape Reston’s character and community, is getting ready to step aside.  They’re prepared to hand off the torch, if
there’s someone who will pick it up.  The
energy that young people provide gives a real boost to an organization.  Also, younger people tend to be more
tech-savvy, and they can help with the perennial problem of finding effective
and cost-effective ways to reach the citizens.
Perhaps most importantly, young people can bring the fresh
perspectives that can help us see new solutions to our community’s
problems.  We’re facing crucial questions
now about how our community will be planned and organized for decades to
come.  We need to figure out how we’re
going to get people to, from, and around Reston.  We need to set priorities for what services and
amenities we will provide in an age of scarce resources.  We need to set the balance between the growth
and development needed to make Reston vibrant with the open spaces and
infrastructure needed to make it livable. 
We need to decide whether it’s time for Reston to become a town, or a
city, or some other form of government.
There’s a lot going on, and the best solutions may well be
things we haven’t even imagined yet.  We
need some new voices at the table to help us find those solutions.  And who better than the can-do, well-educated,
idealistic Millennials to be those new voices?

I became involved with RCA because I love Reston, and I
really want to make a difference in the community.  I want to make changes that I can see, and
get results that have a real benefit right here where I live.  I think a lot of Millennials feel the same
way, and I’m looking forward to working with them as we revitalize – and reinvent
– both our civic organizations and our community.