Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013 | 2:03 a.m.
About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 56th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 20. The students were divided into groups to discuss a variety of topics. A representative was chosen from each group to write a column about the students’ findings. Liel Asulin of Clark High School writes about issues covered by his group, Potpourri.
Typically thought of as rebellious and angsty, today’s teens are often excluded when it comes to voicing their opinions. This all changed on Nov. 20, when about 1,000 Clark County high school juniors and seniors gathered at the Las Vegas Convention Center to express their opinions on a plethora of hot-button issues.
The 56th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum played host to this unique experience, which allowed local teenagers to voice their thoughts on a number of issues to a variety of moderators, including business leaders, local judges and even a congresswoman.
I was assigned to room N241: Potpourri. In many ways, this group was the best to be a part of simply because we were permitted to discuss anything and everything.
And discuss we did.
Over the course of five hours, room N241 played host to myriad topics, including drug testing, technology and same-sex marriage. We were asked to sit in a circle and introduce ourselves. As can be expected in any room full of complete strangers, we were initially rather hesitant to speak. Then the first question was asked — “Should schools have random drug testing for all students and staff?” — and we were off to the races.
Instantly, hands shot up. Nearly every student had something to say, yet unlike the political banter that we as a society have become so accustomed to, no one was interrupted. Many believed that the rights of students would be infringed upon if they were subjected to random drug tests. Others argued that these tests would simply be a waste of time and money. One student keenly observed that the reasons students turn to drugs is the real issue, not how to test them.
After some further discussion and a topic change, we arrived at the issue of technology. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages, weighed pros and cons, and came to a surprisingly simple conclusion: Moderation is key. If toddlers can LOL better than they can ABC, society is failing; however, we live in a world where, when used properly, technology has the power to save lives and spread knowledge. We truly have the whole world in our hands.
After a lunch break, students came back to tackle a few more controversial issues. We began by discussing same-sex marriage and, much to everyone’s surprise, the same civility and respect found in the previous discussions accompanied this much more controversial topic.
Of course, there was disagreement in the room. Some argued that the government has no right to tell people who they can or cannot marry. Still others claimed that if same-sex couples could wed, what would stop people from marrying objects or taking multiple partners? The group very maturely agreed to disagree, and the conversation quickly moved on.
With limited time, we quickly bounced between a few other topics, including gas prices, the Middle East and birth control. All three discussions were spirited yet respectful, despite their brevity.
I can sum up my experience in one word: diplomacy. No matter what the sensitivity of the topic or the passion of the participants, we remained diplomatic and ready to compromise. If the Sun Youth Forum illustrated one thing, it’s that my generation is one to be proud of. We are a group of thinkers who are prepared to answer the questions of today and work together to find the solutions of tomorrow.