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If you’ve read  Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, or ANTHEM: The Graphic Novel, you’ve  been shaped in some way by Ayn Rand’s captivating words. Even people who’ve never read her seem to be affected by her.

In today’s culture, where people are always looking for a scapegoat,  Gen-Zers and Millennials, commonly (and mistakenly) associate Rand with greed, intolerance, and just plain meanness. I fear this baseless connection is turning youth off to Ayn Rand even before they pick up her novels.

This past weekend I caught up with Jennifer Grossman at her 30th College Reunion at Harvard. Sitting in an old elegant lecture hall, a mixed group of alumni, one curious high school student, myself, and my coworker along for the ride, all decided to spend two hours of our sunny Saturday inside, pondering Ayn Rand.

I couldn’t help but notice that much of the conversation centered around a simple question, “What would Ayn Rand think about________?” Attendees filled in the blank with topics about the current political climate, including the recent tax legislation.

While a bit agitated that much of the conversation revolved around taxes, it helped me realize something crucial. When I think of Ayn Rand, I think of a brilliant woman who advocated for individual thought and condemned group think; when other people think of Ayn Rand they may think of someone who spoke about the principles of capitalism, taxes, or politics.

We all view Ayn Rand through a different lens. Whether positive or negative, it illustrates how complex one person’s impact can truly be.

Ayn Rand taught me that I am my own person and that I have no obligation to live for anyone else. She helped me understand that my thoughts are my own and that I have the freedom to form my own opinions. In doing so, she’s enabled me to make my own decisions.

Personally, Ayn Rand’s philosophy of individualism is what draws me to her: “My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute” she wrote. I connect with the idea that my sole obligation is to live my life for myself, with the optional choice to contribute to society however I please.

Ayn Rand taught me that I am my own person and that I have no obligation to live for anyone else. She helped me understand that my thoughts are my own and that I have the freedom to form my own opinions. In doing so, she’s enabled me to make my own decisions.

We’ve each gravitated towards specific facets of Ayn Rand and either adopted or rejected them in our own lives. Just because you like Ayn Rand’s writing, it doesn’t mean you agree with all of her thoughts on Objectivism, the economy, or politics.

If only curious Gen-Zers and Millennials could understand this simple truth, then perhaps they would be more open to hear Rand’s words. As a Gen-Z, ex-college student, I understand how lucrative professors and the media make it to disassociate from any thing or person that someone “evil” has touched.

For example, Ayn Rand is often associated with conservative Republicans, although she was an Objectivist who criticized Republicans and Democrats alike. Yet if Trump were to say he associated with Howard Roark, and I mentioned to my peers that I too see myself in Howard Roark, then I'd immediately be deemed a Trump supporter. But just because a conservative likes a book by Ayn Rand doesn’t mean that if you like a book by Ayn Rand, you automatically become a conservative. It means you like a book by Ayn Rand.

These far off connections are made way too frequently among young people without any real analysis of the situation. We’re being taught that it’s alright to assume anything we want about others, and often the worst about them, based not on facts but on someone’s second-hand opinion.

Those of us who already identify with Ayn Rand recognize  that each of us appreciates different aspects of her philosophy. We take her words, question them, and adapt them into our own philosophical outlook.

The only way to truly determine if any of her ideas resonate with you is to read her work. She gave me the idea of individualism, what will she give to you?

Maeve Ronan

About The Author:

Author: Maeve Ronan
Maeve Ronan is a Gen-Z contrarian who writes about the virtues of individualism and liberty. She has interviewed over 100 successful individuals from around the globe, gathering unique and personal insights for her upcoming book on self-improvement. Maeve has been greatly influenced by Ayn Rand's work on individual freedom, which she hopes to share with other curious young thinkers.

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