Whatever Happened To...

A young dynamo hits turbulence

“The New Me Generation” originally appeared September 30, 2007

By Richard Rys
February 28, 2010

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In 2007, Lilly Deng was a 20-year-old Harvard junior featured in a cover story about students driven to succeed and recent college graduates who, depending on your perspective and likely when you were born, were either the key to America’s future or the first wave of a new workforce that was self-interested, had a feeling of entitlement, and would be, as colleagues, a complete pain in the neck.

Their can-do attitude could be a good thing, the article argued, if channeled into worthwhile pursuits. For example, while she was in school, Deng, a native of Collegeville, Pennsylvania, cofounded Perspectives Debate, a nonprofit in Philadelphia dedicated to helping high school students learn debating skills. After Harvard, she stayed involved with Perspectives.

Looking back now, Deng takes exception to the story. “Being part of the ‘New Me Generation’ is not about entitlement but rather about having a profound sense of responsibility,” she said in an e-mail. “The original article suggested that my generation is brash and even arrogant, when in fact, we are far from that.” She continued: “If we have a fault, it is that we are eager to help and impatient for change.”

But last year, Perspectives found other faults with Deng and her fiance and cofounder, Alexander McCobin, a graduate student at Georgetown. The group filed a lawsuit accusing Deng and McCobin of mismanaging the organization and withdrawing $37,000 from its bank accounts without authorization. The matter was settled in November, and the terms are confidential.

Now Deng, who was identified in the Perspectives complaint as living in Cambridge but has recently been listed in Alexandria, Virginia -- she declined to clarify the matter -- is mentioned in McCobin’s libel suit against his undergrad alma mater’s student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian, for its report about the dispute with the board.

Overachiever Lilly Deng, who appeared destined for success, has met some controversy. (Photograph by Dustin Fenstermacher) Overachiever Lilly Deng, who appeared destined for success, has met some controversy.
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  • february 28 globe magazine cover
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