Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009 | 2 a.m.
I walked into room N238 with a ballpoint pen, a legal pad and a set of political beliefs I thought to be unwavering. Interestingly enough, I soon found that I would be put to the test in more ways than one. Not as someone looking to get his point across but as a recorder for a room of bright and insightful teenagers who all had one thing on their minds: America.
First up was the Iraq war and whether pulling out would be advantageous for America. Opinions were diverse and compelling.
Many students believed it necessary to bring squandered American dollars home to address domestic needs such as the ailing economy. One young woman said the older-than-time feud between the Sunnis and the Shiites was too long-standing for a Western country to fix.
Others quickly responded by saying that it would be unethical and ill-advised for the United States to leave a government half established since we were the ones who removed Iraqis’ only form of government. Solutions to this problem included taking another look at a soft partition of the country and for the United Nations to take America’s place.
On the heels of the Iraq war discussion was that of implementing a military draft. As anticipated, someone cited Vietnam as a grave consequence of the draft. It would force those against the war to fight for something they do not support. This would lead to apathy on the battlefield and demoralize troops on the field.
One student said we should not try to force a democratic republic on Iraq or institute a military draft to do it. Other students suggested we refocus on countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan because those countries are emerging threats to U.S. power.
After much discussion on foreign policy, the students of room N238 quickly moved to domestic issues, discussing the bailout of Wall Street. How is it that Congress can spend $700 billion to bail out Wall Street investment firms for their mistakes, but we can’t pass nationwide health care?
Students espoused strong positions. Many, including myself, believed we need a universal health care system to take care of the 45 million to 47 million uninsured Americans. I suggested we model it after France’s free-market system, which would still allow the private sector to flourish. Some argued that this would be catering to the minority and that such a plan simply is not in the cards right now.
One hot-button issue was same-sex marriage. Our moderator took a straw poll and found that all of us supported at least expanding the rights of the gay community to include the benefits associated with marriage. However, some took umbrage at calling it marriage as it is a religious institution and the Bible teaches otherwise. One young man thought legal gay marriage would infringe upon his own rights; he did support civil unions.
We then discussed America’s up and coming competitors. Many cited Japan and China to be emerging economic threats. However, one young woman said that America’s greatest competitor is itself — envisioning what America would be like if we did not change course.
Last, we discussed the negative influence of American media, the problem of illegal immigration, and America’s dependence on foreign oil.
Ultimately, the Sun Youth Forum solidified the idea that today’s youth care greatly for America. By the end, we decided we would chart a new course and set sail for a future in which America is great once again.