Many Americans born before the baby boomer generation reference the adage “walking to school uphill both ways” to summarize the hardships they faced to gain access to an education. Whether or not older generations actually faced an uphill walk to school, they certainly had to look harder—and in more places—for information. Today, it is quite clear that the near-immediate access to information for many young people in the United States today has made our lives easier, our motivations clearer, and our goals more readily realized.
As USAID approaches its 50th anniversary, it is important to recognize the work of people on both sides of this spectrum: from seasoned professionals who have worked for the Agency since its earliest days, to the younger generations, whose contributions have helped the Agency evolve but stay true to helping people who need it most.
When I came to USAID as an intern two months ago, I hoped I would be able to contribute to real change, or at least be witness to it. I was apprehensive about how I would be perceived, considering I–like many of my intern colleagues–am less than half the age of the Agency. But in my short time here I’ve observed a sincere appreciation for the insights and perspectives interns bring to the table. Young people are not merely an addition to the Agency; our insights are welcomed and complimentary to USAID’s forward-thinking approach to development. For example, young people are naturally keyed-in to evolving social media platforms and information sharing trends, and through the connection we maintain with the Agency when we return to school or find a permanent job, we help foster a new generation of development professionals as we share our experiences and encourage our peers to become involved.
The youngest president in America’s history founded USAID and today, the Agency’s youngest Administrator sits in the Front Office. Young peoples’ passion for service and innovation was embedded in the blueprints of the Agency, which echo in Washington and our missions throughout the corners of the world, nearly 50 years later. I look forward to the next few months of my internship. I’m sure it’s been said before, but this is a very exciting time to work at USAID.