Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 | 2:01 a.m.
If you want to feel good about tomorrow, spend a day at the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum.
My father, Hank Greenspun, and his assistant, Ruthe Deskin, started the Sun Youth Forum in 1956, because my dad had a revolutionarily simple idea: He believed that the adults in Las Vegas would be well-served by paying attention to the opinions and ideas of their high school students. So he started the Youth Forum in partnership with the Clark County School District.
I believe this is the only public-private partnership of its kind in the country. Certainly it’s the longest-running. Over the decades, the forum became a place where future congressmen and women learned how to talk — and listen — to each other in a respectful and civil manner. Other cities across our country would be well served to adopt what we are doing in Las Vegas.
When reflecting on the Youth Forum back in the day, Hank encouraged the adult decision-makers to “Listen to youth, for theirs is a wisdom untainted by cynicism, unbounded by pessimism and full of bright hope for the future.”
That was true in 1956 and it’s even more true today.
This past Wednesday, the Las Vegas Convention Center was packed with the best and brightest juniors and seniors from high schools in the Clark County School District. There were close to 1,000 of them, quite a growth from that first Youth Forum almost 60 years ago when just under 100 students from five high schools gathered together.
As much as the students benefit from their day at the Youth Forum, I don’t believe it comes close to the feelings of gratitude that the adult moderators, like me, get for being able to participate. What comes through loud and clear is an overwhelming sense that tomorrow is going to be OK because the caliber and quality of students who participate each year continues to improve.
At the Youth Forum, we meet young adults who will one day have their hands on life’s tiller and are perfectly capable of steering this country forward, regardless of the challenges that will come their way.
I’m also thrilled to meet the sons and daughters and, in a few cases, the grandchildren of former Youth Forum participants. The impact the Youth Forum made on those in one generation has encouraged participation by succeeding ones. Children of leaders are accepting the torch.
I wish there were a way the entire community could feel the optimism generated by these students.
Far too often we only hear about the negative things that our young people do and rarely ever do we get to learn about all that is good in this newest generation.
Those of us who heard them express their concerns, and offer their hopes and solutions, can share with you our confidence that our future is secure in their hands. You’ll soon hear from them yourselves. The students selected representatives to speak to the community about what’s on their minds, on topics ranging from gay marriage and gun control to nuclear waste disposal and to how to fix the public school system — and a whole lot more.
We’ll let you know when their reflections will be published in the Sun and be broadcast on radio and TV.
Our commitment is to bring those fresh and optimistic ideas to the adults in Clark County. Your commitment must and should be to take the time and make the effort to understand just what our young people are thinking.
Believe me, much of what these high school students are thinking is completely opposite of what their parents believe is the case. And why not? Much of what is not working in our country today is the direct result of what today’s parents have decided to do.
Maybe it is time to pay more attention to our kids. That was the belief in 1956 and not very much has changed since then.
So we will keep trying.
Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.