There’s a specter haunting America’s youth, President Obama warned in his commencement address to Ohio State University graduates Sunday — the specter of “cynicism.” In Obama’s account, sinister (but unnamed) “voices” have been busily corrupting the once-idealistic Generation Y with a siren song of “creeping cynicism” toward ambitious new federal crusades. They’ll even “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
I couldn’t help thinking that Obama and his speechwriters were responding to what they’d read in the New York Times a week before. In “For Millennials, a Tide of Cynicism,” the Times reported new polling data from Harvard’s Institute of Politics suggesting that Americans under the age of 30, “who turned out in droves to elect Mr. Obama in 2008, are increasingly turned off by politics. Experts fear their cynicism may become permanent.” If so, that’s pretty good news, because those mysterious “voices” are on to something.