This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Americans will live through a key event in our history. History has germinated before our very eyes, just as news spread of bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or when we watched mankind reach the moon, or not too long ago, when the country saw Barack Obama become president, less than half a century after Martin Luther King said that he had a dream, so too does history germinate before our very eyes. The millions-strong Women’s Marches, the #MeToo movement, the rapidly transforming nature of the American workforce — these are the seeds of tomorrow’s history. Future generations of American students will walk into a 21st Century Studies class and look back on our time just as we look back on Americans pre-Revolutionary War — as a time of movements and massive developments in the story of the United States. Just as we see those people as witnesses of the Boston Tea Party and protesters chanting “no taxation without representation,” so too will future generations study our society as the stage upon which our history plays out. What sets the key events of today apart from the key events of the past is that the nature of the United States itself is changing faster than it has in generations. America is transforming in ways that have never been possible before, and as a result, we have more than the rare privilege of observing monumental moments in history. We are not special because we can watch history in the making. We have a unique opportunity to influence the future, rather than just watching important events develop, because the fundamental nature of what it means to be an American is changing. The unprecedented speed and magnitude of America’s cultural, political and workforce transformation has granted us the privilege of writing the future like never before. 

America’s metamorphosis permeates all levels of society. It is most visible at the top, where the president has cast aside all the norms of political conduct and discourse. However, America’s constituents are changing too, in an equally significant way. Most obvious is that the U.S. population has grown remarkably — from 282 million to over 325 million from 2000 to 2017, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Another very perceptible change is that America is becoming more ethnically diverse, but the magnitude of this change sometimes goes unnoticed. According to a July 1, 2016 NPR article, in 2016, racial or ethnic minority babies outnumbered their white counterparts for the first time in American history. Not only has the U.S. demographic itself undergone drastic change, but the workforce is changing at an unprecedented rate: Millennials in their late 20s are currently making significantly less than their Baby Boomer parents did at their age, according to a Jan. 14, 2017 Forbes article. This is not some omen of economic doom brought about by the biggest recession since the Great Depression. Millennials are entering the workforce much later, because the college graduation rate has increased by 50 percent since Baby Boomers’ graduation rates were measured, and thus are making less money during their late 20s, as their parents had a decade of experience under their belt by this point, according to the same Forbes article. But a college degree — once the definitive ticket into the workforce at a high level — is now treated like a base-level requirement, akin to completing high school. Indeed, a bachelor’s degree is a necessity in the modern American workplace to realistically access the upper echelons of jobs, with median salaries that are tens of thousands of dollars higher than those that do not require a bachelor's degree, according to 2016 data from the Pew Research Center. The story of American success is no longer that of a high schooler who went into a trade and worked his way up; it is the tale of a college graduate working in a lab, studying computer science, hoping to find a job where his uniquely honed skills can bring in a decent salary. These changes have dominated America’s culture and national dialogue. Thanks to the inescapable connection to social media, we are all made aware that Americans’ clashes over issues have increased in number, variety and intensity. Some Americans cry out, buckling under the weight of student loan debt, as others bravely speak out against sexual assault in a manner never before seen in our country. Still, more work must be done to end religious persecution, almost all Americans demand better of their government. America’s culture, at all levels, is going through an extraordinary, if sometimes painful, crucible. Our country is changing at rates that are completely unprecedented. This is history in our time. The transformation of America’s demographics, politics and culture will be looked back on as a defining period in the story of our nation.

While we have been granted the great privilege of watching history unfold in real time, this privilege brings with it a responsibility to be not just casual observers but rather active participants of history. Even more so, it is the chaotic, rapidly changing landscape of America that calls us to action. Now, more than ever, the power of the individual has been made large as today’s rapidly changing world will compound our actions to alter our future more than we thought possible. Just as women have banded together and forced us to confront the horrifying, disgusting underbelly of Hollywood, so too must ordinary citizens come together. We must go forward and proactively decide how the arc of history will bend. We must go out louder and prouder than ever before — prouder of our skin, our faith and our partners. It is easier now, than ever before, to witness history. A quick scroll through Facebook will give you more exciting news than your average TV show — a fake nuclear attack, affairs, scandals, intrigue and an ever-expanding web of secrets, deceit and drama. But we must be more than fascinated observers of history. Now is the time to ffect change, because taking action during America’s period of greatest advancement will shape tomorrow’s history like never before. Now is the time for us to go out and fight for the America that we want for our brothers and sisters.