Owen Kartheiser is a 21-year-old employee at Target at the State Street location, where he has worked for nearly a year. In the last month and a half, Kartheiser, also a student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, began working in the human resources department of the store. Growing up in a suburb near Chicago and being an essential worker to the Madison community, he has a unique perspective on the current state of the Dane County community.
What do you think is the biggest challenge our community faces?
I would say that [many issues] apply to every community, whether it be the people you work with, your local community, or the world as a whole. Our generation, Gen Z, is facing many real issues, like artificial intelligence and the damage that it could do if it gets out of control. We also face a lot of environmental issues that are impacting our resources. Our society has also been dealing with meeting people’s basic needs, like food and shelter. For me, these are big problems that are really scary.
What do you wish people in our community understood better?
At least in my personal community, I wish that some people would respect that I am not always available. I feel like a lot of people think of being somebody's friend or companion as always being there for them. And to an extent that's obviously true. If something happened to somebody I cared about, I would obviously be there. But, at the same time, I think every individual person matters just as much as the people that they care about. And so I would say that that is something that I wish people would understand better. I want to be there for others, but sometimes, I just feel stretched too thin.
What is one change you would make if you could that would make life better for people in our community?
Tying back to the first question, I wish people would participate more in things that matter to everybody. A recent example is that racist video posted by the student at [UW-Madison]. I wish more people were not afraid to take a stand and demand change. Also, I would like to see more outlets for people in the community that might feel underrepresented. That way when issues like [the racist video] arise, those voices can clearly be heard. Those are very big issues that impact many people.
What in our community gives you hope?
I would say that the younger generations give me hope. I mean, part of being young is doing stupid things and learning from them. So obviously I'm not saying that young people are the models of what people should be. But I would say that young people are turning out more to both local and federal elections and making a difference. I think this generation of people gives me hope because I feel like older generations are stuck in their ways. I think we’re challenging that a lot.
One thing I've seen on the news is that a lot of managers at companies are reporting that young people are really hard to work with. I think a lot of people really think that. But, what I think it really is, is that young people are challenging things and questioning authority, while older people are more likely to be complacent. Obviously, that’s not always the case. But I think a lot of people think young people are not able to listen or do things. It’s like, no, we’re just questioning the system that you set up for us. It’s so dumb. I think young people are challenging the norms.
Owen Kartheiser photo by Drake White-Bergey