Thursday evening, June 29, 2006
Northeast Trip, Queens, N.Y. (three days into the shoot)
"Give us your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning
to breathe free," says the plaque on the Statue of Liberty
in New York Harbor.
We have barely begun our journey across America to listen to the
next generation, and we have noticed something unmistakable: Lady
Liberty's message promises to endure well beyond the statue's
120th birthday later this year.
The Census Bureau and demographers tell us that the United States
is still decades away from being "majority minority,"
which means having a population that consists of more minorities
than Caucasians. But stops in Lower Manhattan's Union Square,
Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant and Sheepshead Bay, as well as Fairfield
and Bridgeport, Conn., gave us an early glimpse of the multi-racial,
multi-ethnic generation that will be running America 25 years
If what we're seeing holds up, and there's every reason to think
much of it will, this will be a self-confident cohort, not only
comfortable with how different they are from each other, but proud
of these differences, too.
On Wednesday, when we were in Union Square, a few blocks from
Greenwich Village, we encountered 23-year-old Babatunde Alli.
He stands nearly six feet tall, and he is one semester away from
completing his bachelor's degree. He told us his dream of going
Although he's a U.S. citizen, he said that his name has sometimes
been a barrier, especially since 9/11: people hear it or see it
and immediately ask for a background check. Still, he seemed proud
of his name, even as he laughingly pointed to his friend Justin
Clark -- also African American -- who Alli said never gets that
sort of grief.
A few minutes later, Davon Applewhite spoke to us. Also African
American, Davon -- a more "American" name -- grew up grew up in
Savannah, Ga., but now works in New York. He insisted that too
much of formal education in the United States is a waste:
"Anything beyond adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing
-- where does that really get you?" he practically shouted.
"I want to study the subject I'm interested in, not all that!"
But 18-year-old Elina Bank -- a self-described Russian Jew who
grew up in Moscow -- argued with him. "Education opens your
eyes," declared the incoming Baruch College freshman. "I
want to take all those courses in math and philosophy because
they'll help me understand the world."
Today, Thursday, while in Bedford-Stuyvesant (on Malcolm X Boulevard
at Fulton Street), a pair of 20 year olds stopped by our RV --
Jose Quinones and his friend David Vidal.
Still sweaty from their construction jobs, they spoke of their
determination to "stay clean" (unlike many of their
friends), work hard and earn enough money to cultivate their other
line of work -- a tiny company that manages music artists and
boxers. Their eyes gleamed when they described what they want
few feet away, an equally starry-eyed, strikingly pretty 19 year
old, Krystle Vives, her hair in tight braids, spoke enthusiastically
and confidently of her plans for a career in broadcast journalism.
"My father was a drug dealer and my mother a drug user, so
I wanted nothing to do with that."
She's been raised by her grandmother in East New York and is a
rising sophomore at Brooklyn's Kingsborough Community College.
Krystle said she is prepared to work however long it takes to
achieve her goal. You believe her.
We visited professor Michael Miranda's psychology class at Kingsborough.
Every student's hand in the classroom shot up when Dr. Miranda
asked who believed that a college education is essential to get
ahead for their generation.
One particularly outspoken young Latina, Roxanne Borukaou, asserted
that women who are mothers, like herself, must go to school and
get the most education they can in order take good care of their
The professor noted the contrast with his own generation. "Thirty
years ago," he said, "I don't recall anyone with me
in college who already had children. But today, a number of you
do, and you're taking it in stride."
He complimented the principally immigrant class for "withstanding
the pressure you must feel" in the global economy we live
No one disagreed with his observation.
-- Judy Woodruff