Sen. Clinton delivers keynote address at youth summit

Alessandro Roco

The American Democracy Institute is a relatively new organization, dedicated to increasing civic participation and developing the next generation of progressive leaders. For the youth leadership summit in Philadelphia, over 1,000 youths from local high schools, colleges and universities, community and technical colleges, community groups and young professional organizations were invited to attend workshops in order to promote political involvement in the community.

“Organizations like ADI are crucial to ensuring that this spirit flourishes for years to come,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said in her keynote speech. “ADI provides young people with a bridge back to the ideals on which our country was founded and the tools to put those ideas into action.”

Sen. Clinton, honorary chair of the ADI’s youth initiative, delivered a keynote address on Feb. 4, focusing on the power young people have to affect their communities. The plenary session also featured speeches by John Hart, ADI president, Sean Wilentz, Dayton-Stockton professor of history and director of American studies at Princeton University, and Gene Nichol, president of the College of William and Mary.

First, Hart spoke about the “quiet crisis in democracy that has overtaken our nation.” He said that far too often, people have much to say about what is wrong in the world but do not do anything to change what they see as wrong. Civic participation, according to Hart, is the key to breaking “the silence” among citizens.

Wilentz then gave an overview on how democracy evolved over the nation’s brief history, saying how “people thought democracy would lead to anarchy,” but how Americans make democracy work everyday.

Nichol discussed the current state of the union and how much is wrong with the nation’s priorities.

The major focus of his speech was equality, and how there is an overpowering sense of inequality in the United States when “we allow 1 in 5 to live poorly, 46 million people to live without healthcare, several people left to die during Hurricane Katrina because of slow government response and we allow public schools to re-segregate.”

Finally, Sen. Clinton took the stage, incorporating the major messages of the previous speakers.

She discussed the need for the nation’s youth to “reinvigorate democracy” and “get off the sidelines and define what our country needs to change,” citing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s challenge on indifference with regards to civil rights.

Other major issues Sen. Clinton discussed were the need for the nation to face the “unfinished business” it has created, such as the major education gaps created due to increased tuition, the many children who do not have health insurance or the educational resources to be competitive, and the increasing national deficit, which Sen. Clinton deemed “a ticking time bomb.”

She concluded her keynote address by once again urging America’s youth to get involved and not be afraid to change the world around them.

She said that Americans need to embrace, not shy away from, global competition, but they should be “prepared to face it, and win.”

“You need to support one another and stand for something,” Sen. Clinton said. “It’s time to dream bigger dreams, face facts and change the world your way, but keeping all those who came before.”