Las Vegas Sun

August 24, 2019

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Where I Stand:

Youths offer the antidote to our ills


Steve Marcus

Lexie Villanda, of Spring Valley High School, participates in a discussion during the 62nd annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Thursday Nov. 29, 2018. Over 1,000 juniors and seniors from 50 high schools participated in the event. The Clark County School District and Barrick Gold Corporation partnered with the Las Vegas Sun to put on the forum.

I found the antidote to the constant, unrelenting and continuing concern that has permeated the body politic for the past two years.

You know what I am talking about. It’s that feeling of malaise that grips us as we consider where the United States is going given the current political climate and the oft-repeated question: How do we get our country back and where are the leaders who will get us there?

That answer to our ills has been available in Southern Nevada for 62 years. It is called the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum.

When my father, Hank Greenspun, and his assistant Ruthe Deskin, together with Harvey Dondero from the Clark County School District, got together in 1956 to consider ways to make sure that the young people of that day would be listened to by the adult leaders of the community, it was the Sun Youth Forum that came to life as a way to give voice to those who could not be heard.

That year, just short of 100 students from the handful of high schools in the county gathered together to discuss whatever was on their minds — and the Sun Youth Forum was born.

It has been over six decades and the forum is still going strong, with close to 1,000 students and over 50 high schools represented. The Las Vegas Sun and CCSD are still partners together with our new partner, Barrick Gold Corp., which joined us last year and with whose help we can do this for six more decades!

Back to the antidote for what ails us.

To a person — the adult moderators from across the community, the school counselors and teachers who fill the rooms at the convention center to support their students, the business leaders who find their way to the forum to “see what’s going on” and those who make it all happen, like Brian Cram and Sheila Lee from the Sun and Sandy Ginger and Jody Plant from the School District — the feeling that Sun Youth Forum day is the best day of the year is as true today as it was when this whole thing started.

These high school juniors and seniors remove any doubt that the community elders may have about this newest generation of voters and leaders. Our country is not only in good hands, but they are the kind of hands that are more thoughtful, more curious, more knowledgeable and more understanding than any generation I have lived with and through in my lifetime.

And I ought to know because I have been participating in the Sun Youth Forum for over five decades, so I have witnessed up close and personally the kind and caliber of students who come through its doors.

It is not a stretch to consider the fact that most of the conversations and discussions these young people have with each other about gay rights, Yucca Mountain, the relationship between Russia and America and the issue of gun control, among many others, are on a level and at a depth far greater than I witness adults having on a daily basis.

That is why there are finalists from each group who will share their group’s opinions on television, radio and in this newspaper in the coming weeks. And more important, that is why the adults in this community — today’s leaders — need to pay attention to these students.

Not only do they represent tomorrow’s inheritors, but they also could be part of the largest cohort of American voters in the 2020 elections. Those of us who participate in the Youth Forum are privileged to hear what is on the minds of our young people a few years before those ideas manifest at the polls.

Trust me on this: These kids will vote in numbers far greater than prior generations because they understand what is at stake. The good news is that they are prepared for that responsibility today.

The students at the Sun Youth Forum and others like them around the country are the medicine for what ails us.

And it is easy to take. All we have to do is listen.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.