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January 17, 2017

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Sun Youth Forum:

Millenials, Muslims painted with broad brush

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Angelo Robledo of Clark High School during the 60th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016.

About 1,000 students from high schools throughout Southern Nevada participated in the 60th annual Sun Youth Forum on Nov. 29. 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. This essay addresses the issues covered by the group Around the World.

The 60th annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum allowed me to meet and interact with fellow students who feel strongly about social and political issues that impact people all over the world. This amazing event was a public platform for positive political discourse and discussion — a true realization of First Amendment rights in action. In a generation of voter apathy, these students, the future of our nation, are taking initiative in engaging in our political process and making sure their voices are heard when it comes to the further development of our country.

One of the most heated discussions occurred during the topic of the implementation of democracy around the world, especially in the Middle East. Some students were quick to paint Muslim-majority countries with a broad brush, considering practitioners of the religion of Islam misaligned with the ideals of democracy. However, others pointed out that with a religion of 1.6 billion practitioners, a broad brush could not be used.

Muslims live in democracies all around the world, and the largest Muslim-majority country is not even in the Middle East — it is Indonesia in Southeast Asia. Believing that practitioners of Islam are at odds with democracy ignores the sacrifice of countless Muslim military personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces who dedicate their lives to the protection and defense of our constitutional democracy. Sensationalized politics are to blame for the growing Islamaphobic rhetoric, a sad fact that churns most of our stomachs.

We got slightly off topic and started talking about the Electoral College and whether it was a sign that American democracy was flawed. I advocated for the Electoral College, as long as it is used correctly. Alexander Hamilton points out in Federalist Paper 68 that electors are to ensure that a demagogue is never elected, using their state’s vote as a factor toward their eventual decision. We all agreed that modern media and digital immediacy are to blame for the assumption that all electors for a state would vote in alignment with the popular vote of that state. In their need to call the election first, the news has prevented the Electoral College from running the way it was intended, independently. Laws that force electors to vote in alignment with their state go against the very ideals of the college. It is for these reasons that we agreed that while the Electoral College is flawed, it can be good for democracy when used as intended.

When the topic switched to the protection of women’s rights around the world, the discussion got intense and tempers ran red hot. While we were deeply split on our views of rape culture and sexism in countries in the developed world, we agreed that the solution for sexism and discrimination in countries in the developing world was education. We are very privileged to live in a country that values free public education for all citizens.

These students hear political pundits and the media call millennials lazy and disengaged on a regular basis. I invite all who believe that to come to the 61st annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum to witness brilliant students passionately discussing topics that will directly impact them. While they may not be enfranchised, these students realize that free expression of ideas prevents them from being marginalized and passed off as lazy or uncaring. They are trying to tell the world that they are here and they do care — all you have to do is listen.

Angelo Robledo is a senior at Clark High School.

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