The Kids Are All Right

Much has been made of the Millennial Generation’s more cosmopolitan flair and blasé attitude toward patriotism.  I wouldn’t recommend repeating that criticism on the campuses of Virginia’s public colleges and universities today.

Last night, as the news was released that the most wanted man in the world had, indeed, been killed in Pakistan, hundreds of Radford University students spilled onto Main Street in Radford to celebrate, waving American flags and chanting “USA!”.  Roanoke CBS-affiliate WDBJ-7 has video of the raucous, impromptu celebration here.

Just north of Radford, Virginia Tech students set off fireworks and cheered the demise of Osama bin Laden, while a truck whose passengers hoisted American flags from the open windows circled campus.

These students in Virginia’s New River Valley joined their cohorts from around the nation in posting, commenting on and liking pro-American and anti-bin Laden statuses on one anothers’ Facebook pages.  One friend likened bin Laden to “our generation’s Hitler” and imagined that the joy she was experiencing must be similar to what her grandparents felt when news of Hitler’s death reached the homefront.

As others have noted today, the irony of these celebrations is that most of today’s college students were elementary school students on September 11, 2001.  While they might remember watching coverage of the attacks on television, the attacks themselves almost certainly did not affect them in the same way that it affected those of us who were old enough to appreciate the gravity of the situation.

Yet that also encapsulates an important lesson on the Millennials: our generation has been asked to bear a significant share of the fighting in the War on Terror.  Many of our servicemen and women who have fallen in the mountains and streets of Afghanistan and Iraq entered this life either during or since the administration of President George H. W. Bush.  We may not always remember how we entered this war, but there is no doubt that this is our war, too–and last night Americans of all ages had a reason to feel a sense of relief.  The War on Terror is far from over, but today it feels as if the world is a little more just place and that, truly, is a cause for celebration.

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