Millennial Generation: An interview with James Michael Russell

10 Feb

Interview with James Michael Russell/ Millennial Generation

The Millennial Generation consists of those born between 1977 and 1998. There are approximately 75 million Millennials.  This is a generation often described as being raised at the most child-centric time in our history.  They are a group that display an enormous amount of confidence and have been told by society they are all above average, creating difficult expectations to live up to indeed.  The Millennials have always had the advantages and disadvantages of technology; it has always been part of their lives, whether it’s computers and the Internet or cell phones and texting. This is also a generation that will probably not be as financially successful as their parents.

As someone who has been in education most of my life and as I hope to inspire a group of activists through my behavior and my blog, I am curious to see what Millennials think of their own generation and of our world currently.

I was able to speak with James Michael Russell, a very accomplished writer for Truthout and the Huffington Post, about his thoughts and reflections of his own generation.  James was rather uneasy speaking about his own life and obviously much more comfortable being an interviewer.  Despite his discomfort, his dedication to making the world better shines through.  For those that accuse this generation of apathy, James certainly proves any detractors wrong.

As he talked he was almost painfully aware of his own privilege as a white man born at the end of the Reagan era. He lives in Ft. Worth, Texas and attended Texas Christian University.  His education there was interrupted by his reflection that: “I realized I was going to school with people that listed shopping and football games as their favorite thing to do, so I decided to leave. Then I enrolled at the Non-Stop Liberal Arts Institute.” Recently, James was accepted to Antioch College on a full, four -year scholarship.


While he was raised Catholic, he says, “I’m still religious but I no longer identify with Catholicism. After I left Catholicism over a fight with a priest about free speech (the lack of respect for women’s reproductive health bugged me anyway), I dabbled in atheism but hated being without God, then found the Religious Society of Friends. I have been hooked on Quakers since!”

What would you describe as the most significant historical marker in your lifetime?

A Big moment for me was when I realized if Bush had not been elected in 2000, I might not have become the person I am.  I think his being elected propelled me into activism.  So much went wrong during that time, I’m not sure I would have become as outspoken as I am now.  He went into an illegal war and peace work is very important to me.  He also assaulted so many lives in so many different ways, going to war, his domestic policies that worked against welfare and women. I mean granted Gore was much of a pawn of corporations as anybody, and Lieberman is  loony. Still, I ask myself: would I have been as passionate about the work I was doing as I was? I’m not sure — I like to think so. But the problem at that time is that progressives and radicals were reactionary (and are still playing that card in some ways) and have not moved into an ideas-driven mindset yet. It’s still, “this system has failed, blah blah blah.” But yeah, what are we gonna do about it?

Biggest Anxiety

Not being perfect.  I grew up in a media saturated age, and people are supposed to be portrayed as perfect. People are super thin or super fit, or if you are not super good looking then you need to be touched up, but it is about selling products.  I became anorexic from my sophomore year to my senior year in high school.  My boss called me fat the other day, which I didn’t appreciate, but you get what you get.  I work at believing I don’t have to look a certain way.  I go from binge eating to skipping a meal, sometimes intentionally sometimes not intentionally.  It will be with me forever. It is hard to talk about myself—I’m not comfortable talking about personal things.


I think my generation is definitely open to mainstream sexual orientation.  I still think there is difficulty for people that are trans, queer, or bi. But I think we have come a long way. The problem is that people want to make sexual orientation and gender a solid identification, when it’s not.

My generation cares very deeply, but we are also very naïve.  We grew up in a time of great consumerism and being a part of the landscape of an economy that only worked in theory.  We grew up in a world with a false notion of what the world really is—I would say this applies to white Americans but not poor white Americans or other classes of people. My generation is misunderstood.  I don’t always identify with my generation.  We are not lacking in confidence but we are lacking in modesty and humility.  We were not held accountable for our behavior.


I feel the world needs to be radically re-envisioned but I also think I’m a progressive—I like welfare programs.  It is difficult for me to think about because it is not black or white, its lots of shades of gray.

Biggest Dream

Good question, to which I have no answer. Secretly, I’d like to get an award for my writing — but I know I just started, or at least re-started, and there’s not a chance. Plus plenty of people *have* told me I’m good, but formal accolades are good, too!

Oh, and world peace.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I don’t know. I really don’t know.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

My generation doesn’t see itself as much as a generation as we do a bunch of individuals who are loosely connected. I think there’s a sense of solidarity among us — Egypt has proved that; it’s all about the young people … but I think that dagnabbed global economy has made us more fluid in terms of our connections. I’d like to see us be comparable to the Boomers in terms of major social innovations, but I also like for us to just, well, get along.


2 Responses to “Millennial Generation: An interview with James Michael Russell”

  1. jmr February 10, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    thanks, Michael! ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: