They have grown up in an era when personal choices that were stigmatized as immoral not so long ago are accepted and even respected. You can live with your girlfriend or boyfriend before you get married; you can be gay -- nobody is going to give you a very hard time. In fact, young people are delaying childbearing until marriage more than they used to and seem to be divorcing somewhat less often. We're learning as a country to balance freedom with responsibility.
The one issue on which young people seem dissatisfied with things as they are is the military conflict in Iraq -- that would be with the exception of most of the young people who have served there and who are re-enlisting at higher than projected rates. The attitude of those without military ties seems to be: If we just get out of Iraq, if we just get rid of George Bush, then everything will be all right. We won't see suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices on our television screens; we won't see mass demonstrations by Europeans and Muslims against us; we won't have all this controversy and bitterness in our partisan politics.
Today's 21-year-old was 3 when the Berlin Wall came down; his or her parents were born well after World War II. Unlike people who lived through the experience of 1914-1918 or 1939-1945, they have no reason to draw the conclusion that everything can -- and sometimes does -- go terribly wrong.
It is tempting to turn your eyes away from the possibility that Islamist terrorists could get their hands on nuclear or chemical or biological weapons and wield them against us. Just as it is tempting to turn your eyes away from the certainty that current programs will lead to the state gobbling up much of the private sector here, as it has done over the past generation or two in a number of European countries, most notably France. But as we saw this month, even the comfortable French finally voted against that.