Is this generation too scared to dream big?

The Great Recession affected American families’ finances on a variety of fronts. In one sense, it reminded us of the importance of carefully preparing for a rainy day by not overextending ourselves … More

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Op-Ed

Is this generation too scared to dream big?

Posted 3/26/12

The Great Recession affected American families’ finances on a variety of fronts. In one sense, it reminded us of the importance of carefully preparing for a rainy day by not overextending ourselves financially and by having a monetary safety net in place.

Yet have we given equal thought to the important role that our children’s career paths can play, not only in their economic futures, but in the economic future of our nation? The recession may have made us more fiscally prudent, but did it make us too scared to dream?

American innovation is at the core of what makes us great, driven by the will to take chances and go all in on an idea. For us to maintain our status as an economic superpower, we need to keep dreaming, and dream big.

Junior Achievement USA and the ING Foundation recently surveyed a national sample of teens, asking them what their ideal job would be, how confident they are that they will achieve their dream job, and, perhaps most tellingly, if they would give up that dream job for one that paid a higher salary.

Less than half the teens we surveyed – 43 percent – said they were very confident they would have their “dream” job. Yet a significant majority – 71 percent – said they would give up their dream job for one that paid a higher salary.

There is a lot of talk – particularly now, during the presidential campaign – about the importance of creating jobs. And we agree, it is critical to create jobs to spur economic growth. But how will those jobs be created? It is through the power of American ingenuity and innovation, and the strength which lies in the belief that an idea can change the world.

As we recover from the recession, have we given thought to how it affected our children’s beliefs that they can be anything they want to be? These things are clear: we need to nurture our young peoples’ abilities to dream, and we need to give them the tools to plan and achieve those dreams. We can’t let the United States get left behind in the global economy.

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