Many Californians seem to be wallowing in a collective depression – and not just of the economic variety.  For many, the California Dream seems to have taken on the patina of the new Greek tragedy.  Somewhere on the emotional scale – just beyond cynicism and just before surrender – is a kind of irrational c’est la vie.

But help is coming, in the form of Millennials, those Californians born between 1981 and 2000. They are the largest generation in the nation’s history.  And unlike the “boomers” and the “Gen Xers,” the road ahead of them is not smoother and straighter than the road behind them – and they know it.

California Forward – to ground its public interest governance reforms in, well, the public interest – frequently engages people about expectations for their government.  Californians have been amazingly consistent in wanting to improve transparency, increase the accountability of elected leaders to deliver better results – and in the end, restore their trust in a government that they frankly want to trust.

Our discussions with Millennial Californians told us something else.  Unlike their parents and grandparents, these youngest of adults think California is a great place to live and are very optimistic about the state’s future.  They think government can help them achieve personal goals.  They know that education is key to their economic success, and they are expecting public education to prepare them for what they believe will be a more challenging future.  This broader civic perspective contributes to their optimism.

Most were born here (68 percent, much higher than older generations).  By similar margins, they believe California provides an opportunity for all. They plan to raise a family here.  They plan to be economically successful here.

This is not just youthful bliss.  Some 20 percent of them want to work but cannot find a job – a sign that California’s rough economy has been disproportionately harsh to them as they are trying to start careers.  Still 76 percent say their career goals are extremely important to them.  They are not settling.

Millennials also are more civically involved than older generations – if you measure involvement by volunteer community service.  They also are more likely to think it is important to contribute to society.

But they are less likely to be registered to vote, and then to vote.  Some 37 percent consider themselves independent.  So if civic engagement transitions to political engagement the partisans and their allied money sources have something to worry about.

Dan Schnur of the Unruh Institute for Politics at USC thinks the findings indicate that Millennials may be ready to break the political gridlock that has paralyzed this state.

“This generation is much less rigidly partisan than older Californians, which means a dramatically different political climate in California in the years to come if they do become more involved,” Schnur told us.

This aspirational energy becomes even more concentrated when you look at Latino Millennials, the largest ethnicity (44%).  The expectations for personal success and for California’s recovery are higher among Latinos than both other Millennials and their parents and grandparents.

Like their Anglo counterparts, most Latino Millennials (65 percent) were born in the state.  Some experts think that means Latinos will increasingly view politics and public policy through a different lens than their parents and grandparents, who are more likely to have been born outside the United States.

Mike Madrid, who runs a California public affairs firm and is a nationally recognized expert on Latino voting trends, thinks that Latino Millennials will be less focused on the immigrant experience and more focused on traditional middle class values, which he said, “have always determined public policy and elections in California.”

This optimistic look into our future doesn’t mean we can wait.  As I mentioned, at California Forward we have been listening to people of all ages, and they are ready for change.  They like their government  -they just don’t like the way it is being managed. They are ready to change it and are becoming more frustrated with leaders who resist change.

They can learn from the Millennials, who have figured out what the rest of us should remember. California is, and always has been, a great place with great opportunity.  It just needs government to be smarter, more honest and accountable to the people.

Two final factors:  Millennials are tech savvy.  They are plugged into themselves and their networks – not old school media.  And 70 percent of them think that their generation is different than the generations before them.

Civic-minded, personally ambitious, few partisan loyalties, passionate about California and a sense of destiny. This makes some of us wonder just what a “California Spring” might look like?

Jim Mayer is Executive Director of California Forward, which is working with Californians to implement reforms that allow voters to hold elected leaders accountable for results.