Let’s face it. There are many economic challenges ahead for Millennials. The context is challenging for this generation: high unemployment rates, escalating college costs and loans, and a rising national debt. When other generations seem more interested in just arguing about it and doing little, Millennials, like Ryan Schoenike and others, are jumping in and leading to make a difference.
Ryan is the co-founder of The Can Kicks Back, an organization described as “a non-partisan Millennial movement to defeat the national debt and reclaim our American Dream.” Together, they are working hard to build a sustainable future for Millennials and all generations.
Interview with Ryan Schoenike, Co-Founder of The Can Kicks Back
Highlighted below is an interview with Ryan. He is a great example of Millennial leadership at its best, and we can all learn from him and the change his organization is driving forward.
The stated mission of The Cans Kick Back is: “…to educate, organize and mobilize young Americans in order to promote a sustainable and generationally equitable federal budget.” How are you getting Millennials engaged on this important issue? Are other generations listening?
Ryan: One of the main tactics of The Can Kicks Back (TCKB) has been to meet our generation where they are and communicate with them though modes and mediums that they are familiar with.
For TCKB, this means that we have a heavy online presence and often choose to embed our message in cultural memes. There is a lot to compete with these days and, if you don’t present people with something interesting, you are never going to get their attention.
You need a hook. We have seen a lot of success reaching people with humor. Once we hook them with interesting content, we walk them down an engagement ladder that starts with education and ends with volunteering.
Yes, other generations are listening. In fact, my Grandmother is one of our biggest supporters. While we focus on Millennials, our supporters come from all age groups. We look at older generations particularly, our grandparents, as natural allies in this fight. Because we believe that if they know the real facts, they wouldn’t stand for it.
There was a recent The Atlantic highlighting how Millennials are ignoring Washington, DC, and focusing on community service instead. One of the reasons is Washington isn’t necessarily listening or willing to make the required changes. How is your movement different?
Ryan: It’s hard to blame Millennials for turning to service instead of focusing on politics. Most of our generation has only known a dysfunctional Washington. We hope that by letting our generation know the consequences of inaction on their future they will get involved. There is still a huge deficit of facts around the country and we aim to make sure our peers know the truth.
What are some ways your organization is addressing the “drivers of our $17 trillion and growing national debt;” specifically, what changes would you like to see happen during the next two years to address this growing problem?
Ryan: We think that the biggest thing is getting young people involved. In our view, they have always been the missing piece. For anything to really change, Millennials need to get involved in large numbers. That being said, we think the solution lies in what we are calling the Grand Generational Bargain. This would mean trading increased investment today for long-term, meaningful entitlement reform. Both parties, we believe, should be able to agree on sensible tax reform.
Is Congress and the Administration hearing your message and beginning to act?
Ryan: They are starting to. We recently championed a bipartisan piece of legislation that was introduced into both chambers of Congress. The INFORM Act would require the government to account for all of its future liabilities and not just past debts. It is currently supported by over 900 economists, including 14 Nobel laureates. This bill was the result of 20 supporters spending one day on Capitol Hill advocating for our generation. It’s just one of many steps we need to take, but think this is great first one.
How can Millennials and other generations get involved and help in raising awareness and begin making the necessary changes?
Ryan: First, they can sign up on our website and stay up to date on our work. We offer multiple ways to get involved from just being a supporter to joining a local chapter to starting a new chapter. Second, they can read and share a report that we just released this week. The report entitled, Swindled: How Millennials Will Pay the Price of Washington’s Paralysis, lays out the facts of our country’s fiscal situation and the cost of delaying action.
As one of the co-founders of this movement, what has energized you the most about it? And, what advice would you give to other Millennial leaders?
Ryan: For me the aha moment came when I was sitting on a friend’s couch and saw a documentary about how big our country’s fiscal problems actually are. I realized that the burden to pay for our nation’s debts was going to fall on my generation and yet no one was speaking for us. Through several efforts, I met a group of concerned Millennials and we eventually started this movement.
The one piece of advice I would give is not to give up. Starting any type of movement is hard and even with our progress we still have a long way to go. There are many things that will stand in your way and you just have to push through them.
Get Engaged: Millennials and All Generations!
Thank you to Ryan Schoenike and the engaged team at The Can Kicks Back. They are leading in a way that truly builds trust between generations; they are engaging across generations to solve real problems.
Please read more about their movement, join one of the city tour sites, and encourage your representatives to take note and act. Learn more at The Can Kicks Back.
Join the Conversation
The Can Kicks Back: Building a Sustainable Future for Millennials and Beyond
Hi Ryan & Jon,
This was a wonderful interview!
Ryan, the work you and The Can Kick Backs are doing is truly inspirational. You all have a deep passion to see a better world around you.
I loved what you said about not giving up. It is usually strong persistence that differentiates those who make a real difference from those who don’t.
Thanks, Hiten. Ryan and the team at The Can Kicks Back are doing great work and admire their tenacity in working for a better future. Thanks again! Jon