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Fournier: Change Is the Cause of Unprecedented Election, Voter Dissatisfaction

To Conference keynote speaker, nationally renowned journalist and Detroit native, Ron Fournier, the upcoming 2016 presidential election is much larger than Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders or any other candidate in the race. It’s a watershed moment, the culmination of the rapid economic and technological change society is facing – and more importantly, the defining attributes millennials take into shaping the institutions around them.

Skipping the usual punditry around polling or past political war stories, Fournier used his address to dive into the broader conditions surrounding the presidential race and the frustrated mood of the electorate.

“What I’d like to do is pull back the lens about 30,000 feet and talk about the context that we’re having in this election and why is it we’re having such a crazy election. The answer is change,” began Fournier. “We’re living in a period of unprecedented change, of enormous change…I’m talking about a change in the way we live and work and perform ourselves economically that creates all kinds of anxiety in our society.”

As the world transitions into a new, global and highly technical economy, Fournier argues, people are being forced to adapt much more quickly than the institutions that serve them. Whether government, church or the media, this fact is leading to a nearly unprecedented dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“What happens when you have this kind of change? … We are forced to change. The institutions that are supposed to be holding us together, lifting us up, keeping us from falling down, they can’t adapt as quickly as we are being forced to change. They just can’t…And if they’re not adapting, we start losing faith in them,” asserted Fournier.

This same dissatisfaction has led to the rise of extreme populism on both the left and right, manifested in candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. However, if populism is truly the uniting brand of the future, there is an even greater story to be told –  the millennial story.

For Fournier, millennials are an anomaly. Shaped by the economic fragility of the recession and the global connectivity of the internet, they are incredibly purpose-driven, but no longer see government as an effective avenue for change. Instead, they are pursuing careers in social entrepreneurship.

“This is the first civic generation that, while they want to do good, they don’t see government and politics as a way to make the world better…So what are they doing? They’re involved in social entrepreneurship in an amazing way. They’re working outside government to create innovative and measurable successful solutions to the nation’s problems.”

However, Fournier is also inspired by these millennials, by their willingness to quickly adapt and get involved in what President Teddy Roosevelt referred to as “the arena.” Spurred by his children, who now reside in Michigan, as well as his immense desire to join them in creating positive community impact, Fournier announced his intentions to move back to his native Detroit area and join the Conference next year as a “member of the family.”

“The Fournier family is changing. We’re adapting. We’re disruptive. If all goes well, this is going to be my last campaign in Washington. I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I’m tired of documenting the dysfunction. I’m tired of the senseless fighting and ego stroking, and I’m ready to be more than just an observer. I want to get into the arena…I want to be part of a cause bigger than myself. I want to come back to Detroit…”

“So this is the time…I plan next year to be back here with all of you, not as a guest, but as a member of the family. Because of all of you, I think Detroit’s best days are still ahead of us.”