For Americans born between 1979 and 1994, history has invaded their sense of well-being and self, not once but twice. The signal event was, of course, the horror of September 11, 2001. If history were a guide, then predictably these high school and college students, along with their entry-level job colleagues, would have reacted by turning inward, rallying around the flag, wanting revenge-much like my older cousins and professors of the World War II era reacted to Pearl Harbor. But this group was already different. They played more soccer than baseball; they watched the World Cup. Technology from MTV to the Internet put them in touch with the rest of the world on a moment's notice. They consumed global brands. And they were already developing their own networks that included intimates or acquaintances beyond the community where they lived.
And they had a global sensibility; geopolitical borders mattered less. A 2005 Zogby Poll showed that American teens and twenty-somethings cared more about the product and less about what nation it represented. Their preferences weren't a matter of culture but of cool. Indeed, they were planetary "buyers without borders."
The tragedy of 9-11 made these young Americans even more curious about the rest of the world. Unlike their counterparts in China, Russia, and Brazil who are searching for past imperial or divinely-inspired greatness, America's youth came to the realization that perhaps the United States had reached the end of the road as the world's uni-power in both military and economic terms. They saw their country attacked and struggling to defeat the enemy; a collapse of the financial system; military interventions that split the nation and failed to achieve their goals; the intransigence of new and regional powers with their own global agendas; and a crisis in confidence in almost all of their familiar institutions following either their inability to provide solutions that required bipartisan solidarity, or outright scandals that undermined trust.
Today's First Globals are a generation nurtured in crisis. Coddled at home, they have been given an extended lease on adolescence. But they witnessed two cataclysms and have the training, desire, facility with new technologies, and the compassion to want to make their damaged world a better place. In recent Zogby Polls, as many as one in three prefer to be called "citizens of the planet Earth," more than any other age cohort.
Even while some of their optimism has dampened with the lingering Great Recession, First Globals strongly maintain their planetary sensibilities. In an April, 2013, Zogby Analytics poll, 35% said they are likely to "live and work in the capital of a foreign country" during their lifetime.
First Globals are much more aware of the importance of speaking a foreign language.
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Their “community” is worldwide. In a 2012 Zogby Analytics, poll 71% of Globals replied it was very or somewhat important, more than any other age cohort, that their workplace provide opportunities to make a difference in their world. They actively seek employers who prominently share their corporate social responsibility priorities and community impact. Organizations that recognize volunteer work days as developmental opportunities without vacation penalty are magnets for First Globals. More than any other group, America’s First Globals see the need to support international, not simply, local community charities.
While the United States has been a major military, cultural, and economic superpower for the past century, the American people have been raised in a spirit of “splendid isolation” – a continent apart from the world’s hot spots. All that seems to be changing and America’s First Globals are leading the way.