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Wednesday January 18, 2012 Edition
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Teens Ponder The State Of The Nation And Share Their Views In A Variety Of Forums

Wednesday January 18, 2012

By Cookie Steponaitis

     Issues are heating up the airwaves and filling the Internet and televisions with images, speeches and commentary on the state of the nation. Teenagers at VUHS reached out to share their viewpoints in competitions ranging from writing contests to oratorical competitions. When Senator Bernie Sanders called for his second annual State of the Nation contest, over twenty-five history students responded in voicing their views to the members of Congress and the President.

    The teens were concerned about the current state of the U.S. economy and job market and offered a variety of perspectives and specific ideas on ways to reverse the current trend. Some referred to examples from history while others echoed the desire to have Vermont lead the nation in green technology and provide innovative solutions to energy and environment issues.

    Junior Casey Lynn Traverse Brinkman remarked in her opening comments that,” As a politically conscious teenager, I observe the state of the nation with a mix of frustration and hope. Our problems such as the economic crisis, the degrading environment, and our military operations across the Atlantic frustrate me greatly. However, whenever I hear that another state has embraced marriage equality or when we elected the first African-American president, I feel hope that despite our struggles we are making progress. However, it’s the issues facing the nation, the hurdles we have yet to overcome, that need a dedication of our time and effort.”

    Sophomore Emily Trudo was direct in her focus and remarked, “I am not writing to you to criticize the government or even my country. I am very fortunate and proud to live in America. While I can not say I know exactly how to fix the struggling economy, I offer the following suggestions. First, tell it like it really is. Hide nothing from the American people. Second, look at programs designed to bring back to America jobs and pride. People here want to work and are creative and talented individuals. Lastly, reverse the theory of reality shows like Survivor and make decisions where the American people, not just the sole survivor are winners of benefits, jobs, and a brighter future.”

    Sophomore Levi Waterman remarked on the issue of unemployment by stating, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if the benefits of unemployment were employment? If the United States government put people to work to earn their unemployment benefits, we would see the greatest creation of jobs since the Great Depression programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt. We would improve roads, fix bridges, and could use programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps to jump start environmental programs and green technology.

      Another immediate benefit of this would be products would again be made in America. In the past thirty years we have become a nation of consumers and not producers. It is time for the label Made in America to mean something again.”

    Sophomore Nathan Unger offered his views and commented, “When you talk about the state of the nation in America you are really speaking to the state of the world. The time when we can say we are in this alone has passed. The issues facing the United States are the same critical issues facing the world. Since change is apparently needed, we need to push away the mask of ignorance that we are alone in these decisions and face them as a global community.”

    Sophomore Stephanie Anderson linked shared a perspective about the atmosphere of pessimism prevalent in the country and commented, “The United States, in fact, the entire world is currently going through what the people of Vermont call “mud season”. Mud season is that time of year when everyone is sick of the cold and the dark, sick of the mess that we track in, sick of being discouraged, and are decidedly ready for change. It’s hard to be upbeat when everything around you seems to be colored in shades of brown, but we need to remember two things. First, mud season ends and second, it comes back so you have got to be ready for it.

    Sophomore Mark Dion listened to some of the older voices of the WWII generation in the community and remarked, “In listening to their wisdom it seems we have forgotten some basic lessons of life. First of all, you spend only what you make. You do not go into debt to the point that generations later will be paying off the interest with the mountain of principal still owed. Second, you work hard and produce products that show the world a sense of pride and skill. Third, you protect the people by keeping your schools the focus of your community and by promoting programs that help people earn, spend, but also save. Lastly, you understand that to talk is fine, but action is better.”

     Other students are adding their voices to upcoming local levels of competitions for Rotary International, Lions International and American Legion Oratorical and speech contests. Topics such as the U.S. Constitution and how it relates to Americans of today and current trends and practices of community involvement and grassroots movements from Vermont to places and people across the sea are areas of focus.
As November 2012 and presidential elections move closer, there will no doubt be more discussions, debates and direct input from the American populous to those seeking to take or return to office. If anyone has heard the rumor that teenagers are not involved, uninformed or simply apathetic about the future of America, stop in at VUHS and visit a Civics and Current Events class. The teens are ready to discuss debate and share their ideas, dreams, goals, reflections and suggestions for America and not only vote but become instrumental in bringing about local change.

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