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April 20, 2014

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sun youth forum:

Leaders of tomorrow

Forum’s topics range from the war in Iraq to gay marriages

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R. Marsh Starks/Las Vegas Sun

Clark High School student Sergio Martinez makes a point during a discussion about abortion during the Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2005.

Regardless of why the United States decided to fight the war in Iraq, it would be a mistake to pull American troops out too soon, local high school students said Tuesday when they gathered for the 50th anniversary of the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum.

About 1,000 of Southern Nevada’s best and brightest young minds — juniors and seniors from 47 public and private schools — discussed a number of thorny issues at the forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Among the most hotly debated topics was whether the United States should maintain a military presence in Iraq or immediately withdraw.

Despite the possibility that some teens at this year’s forum might have to serve in Iraq if the war continues for a few more years, a number of them said that is the price that has to be paid for the United States to maintain its integrity, economy and superpower status.

“We have to remain as a peace-keeping force and stay the course,” said Scott Green of Palo Verde High. “We leave now and we will do more damage than when we went in.”

Nic Dunn of Boulder City High agreed: “It’s not a good idea to pull out. After World War I, no one stepped in to help Germany rebuild. That was a big factor that led to World War II because Germany needed a leader and Hitler came along.

“We leave Iraq now, and a vacuum will be created. Syria and Iran will move in to fill that void.”

Brian Wilcox of Cimarron-Memorial High said: “Even if it was a mistake (to go to war), if we leave now, it will lead to civil war and chaos there.”

One discussion group, moderated by Greenspun Media Group President Danny Greenspun, found the students evenly divided on whether the United States had a valid reason for invading Iraq.

Fifteen students thought it was a mistake to go to war, and the same number felt the United States was right in ousting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Regardless of whether it was right or wrong, we have to look at right now,” said Erik Guiremand of Palo Verde High. “It would be terribly irresponsible to pull out. We’re talking about rebuilding a country and that takes time. We have to finish what we start.”

But some students felt that the United States needs to focus more on pressing domestic issues. As one student noted: “There are corrupt governments all over the world. We cannot fix them all.”

Matthew Emmons of Centennial High argued that the United States is trying too hard to force “American democracy on them.”

“The United States wants to be the guiding hand,” he said. “But we have to be proper. We cannot force our laws on them.”

The Sun Youth Forum was founded in 1956 by late Sun Publisher Hank Greenspun, who felt that adults were not listening enough to their kids and that the youth — tomorrow’s leaders — needed a program in which their voices could be heard.

Over the years, the forum, supported by the Clark County School District, has been recognized locally, statewide and nationally as one of the top programs for youth. Last year the forum was inducted into the Excellence in Education Hall of Fame.

Many forum alumni have gone on to be community leaders, including Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Community leaders serve as moderators for 21 discussion groups that focus on seven topics: law and crime, school days, around the world, teen topics, home in Nevada, America and potpourri.

This year’s moderators included Sun President and Editor Brian Greenspun, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro, state Gaming Control Board member Bobby Siller, KLAS Channel 8 vice president of News and historian Bob Stoldal, District Attorney David Roger, Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, and former Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev.

School Board member Sheila Moulton, a moderator, got an earful from students who complained that some teachers do not understand particular subjects.

“That is very disturbing,” Moulton said after students complained of physics and geometry teachers who allegedly have not mastered the course material. “I asked the students what recourse they took and whether they went to higher sources to complain.”

Moulton said there currently are 523 long-term substitute teachers working daily among more than 14,000 teachers in the local system. She said programs such as distance learning — putting good, qualified teachers on videotape or live closed-circuit telecasts — are being used to try to better teach students difficult subjects.

During the several years she has moderated groups at the Youth Forum, Moulton said, she has been impressed over “how the students articulate their views.”

“Serving as a Sun Youth Forum moderator has been one of my highest honors,” she said.

The Sun Youth Forum is directed by Brian Cram, director of the Greenspun Family Foundation. A former superintendent of Clark County schools, he has been associated with the Sun Youth Forum for more than 35 years.

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