The 2023 Gen Z Grand Prix 

Reflecting on a year of tragedies and triumphs for a generation coming of age.

5 mins read

For our year-end issue, Watch Us Rise takes a journey nationwide and well beyond, exploring the impact Gen Z has made this year across politics, culture, the economy, climate, technology, news media, and international diplomacy.

What ties all these threads together? A rising generation that’s now a force to be reckoned with — a generation not just coming of age, but stepping into power. This year, Gen Z took its seat at the table, shaping the conversations and decisions that will define our collective future. And when denied that seat, they pulled up chairs of their own, approaching age-old problems with a fresh perspective.

Art credit: Dominique Greene

In this end-of-2023 issue, our editorial team of young journalists reflects on a year of big challenges and precedent-setting progress for a generation that has broken out of its pre-teen cocoon and entered the workforce. Together with Millennials, Gen Z makes up nearly half of the American electorate. It’s predicted to generate nearly a third of the global GDP by 2030. Gen-Zers are now taking leadership positions in politics, business, and the public square – already shaping the world they’re just beginning to enter.

In this issue, you’ll meet the young people who spent the past year taking center stage in Hollywood, transforming higher education, filling the local news vacuum, reporting live on social media from war zones, and working to save their futures at the COP28 conference in Dubai.

You’ll read Gen Z reflections on the unchecked power of Elon Musk and the meteoric impact of Taylor Swift; stories from the crises in Ukraine, Israel, and the Supreme Court; and syndicated reports from young writers on civic issues ranging from immigration to gender. 

In each story, you’ll hear the voice of a generation eager to pitch in and help. “As Musk’s empire grows, so does his responsibility and our need to hold him accountable,” writes Stephan Bellamy in his examination of the promises and peril of Musk’s growing hand in global affairs. 

We learn, too,  that Gen Z is anxious to find stability in a world that often seems to be coming apart at the seams. Often perceived  as fickle and narcissistic, many Gen-Zers want the safety and stability their  parents and grandparents sought. “We care about values that tie back to a desire to lead financially comfortable lives: we aspire to be financially literate, to start retirement savings as soon as possible, to afford a car and the expenses that come with it, and one day, to become a homeowner,” writes recent college graduate Alexis Condon.

On college campuses, student reporters shook the worlds of journalism and scholarship. Theo Baker, a student at Stanford University, investigated the university president’s academic research, turning up major discrepancies that lead to the president’s resignation. 

“Be careful here, this guy is a world-renowned scientist, and you’re a 17-year-old kid,” Baker’s father reportedly told him. But Baker persisted, and his work resounded far beyond Palo Alto, earning him a prestigious George Polk award. Across the country, college journalists scooped national news outlets by reporting on such harrowing topics as campus antisemitism, hazing and assault. We have syndicated six of the most influential college news stories of the year, a sampling of what we hope is a  journalistic renaissance taking root at universities nationwide. 

In high school hallways and in the halls of Congress, young people are not just restoring the country’s civic fabric; they’re redesigning it, unwilling to return to the status quo.America’s youngest generations are unafraid to challenge norms, break barriers, and redefine the rules of the game. Gen Z  matured from observers into civic actors in 2023, and began to shape our cultural and political landscapes in their own image. In 2024, they’ll have a greater impact than ever before. The 2023 Year-in-Review issue of Watch Us Rise invites you into a Gen-Z perspective on our near future.

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