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O-H… I-O! Patrick and I rolled into Ohio State on Saturday morning, just in time for the Ohio State – Penn State game. Our objective: talk to students about the need for nuclear disarmament. Our tactics: well, talk to students. And invite them to a screening of the powerful new documentary ‘Countdown to Zero’. And maybe give them a snappy button or sticker to keep the cause in mind.

Over the next two days we spoke to over 500 students, and collected over 100 postcards to send to Ohio Senators Voinovich and Brown. Phew. Our tongues are indeed tired. We also made some great new friends who helped promote the screening (hi Tara!), including students in the American Nuclear Society Student Chapter at OSU (shout out to Al! Thanks for all of your help!).

Word to the wise: Talking to people about anything other than Terrelle Pryor on their way to “the Shoe” on a Saturday afternoon maybe isn’t the best approach. This town is addicted to their Buckeyes! Thankfully we didn’t decide to dress Pat in the nuke suit. Might have been dangerous. 😉

What a night! It doesn’t get any more exciting. Republicans made huge gains in the House – picking up at least 60 seats – although the Democrats retained control of the Senate. The election suggested overwhelming dissatisfaction, primarily over the state of the economy and healthcare reform. It is clear that there will be some tough battles ahead – over the Bush-era tax cuts, and how to create jobs and cut spending. We will be lucky if there’s anything more than gridlock in Washington for the remainder of Obama’s term.

What did the youth vote look like this time around? We turned out in historic numbers in 2008 – representing 18% of total voters. An estimated 22 to 24 million young people voted, overwhelmingly for Obama. One exit poll suggested that in 2010 youth turnout was as low as 9%. That’s a big drop, with huge implications for the democrats in particular.

What happened? Did you and your friends vote? Why or why not? What issues were important to you?

By Brandon Fischer, Global Peace & Security Issue Analyst

As beneficiaries of the American system of government, the chance periodically arises for us to forge our voices into its framework during election season. On November 2, 2010, residents who are of 18 years or above will be granted this opportunity. Through this act, American youth will be able to imprint their mark upon the political climate which will affect them and their families for decades to come.

Muslim-American youth, in particular, have much to benefit from contributing in this way. Many sources have found the Muslim-American culture to produce some of the most ambitious and engaged youth in the country. Muslim youth should take hold of the knowledge, access to resources and networks that they possess and put it to use during a process of enormous impact.

The importance of this event becomes evident when considering how critical November’s election period is for the informed voter. Local, state and federal offices will be up for new blood, allowing for an overhaul of policy perspective. By engaging in this act of voting, it provides each the ability to suggest office holders who will represent their unique concerns and desires.

With the rising protectionist and conservative rhetoric that is observed in public and private circles, there exists a huge need for this type of civic engagement in order to provide a bold counternarrative. Apart from voting for office holders who will counter stereotypes and misperceptions of Muslimhood, this voting should also carry the intention of producing a nation that reflects the self-determination of each of its citizens, Muslim and non-Muslim, etc.

Additionally, several reporters have indicated the steep consequences that will become of the results of November’s election, given the state of Congressional seating. With Tea Partiers gaining some footing and Conservatives facing the prospect of taking over Congress, all party members, Democratic, Republican or otherwise, should be conscious of these divisions and their ability to hugely affect the efficiency of our government.

Works Consulted:

By Hannah Nemer, Peace & Security Issue Analyst

Just as insanity commences with the ever-nearing Halloween, John Stewart will be fighting insanity of a different kind – political madness. With a call to the rational, tomorrow’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” promises to draw attention to truth in an increasingly convoluted world of politics.

And attendees certainly hope to draw attention to critical, personal issues.

A response to Glenn Beck’s cries to take America back, the rally’s rational attendees hope to reverse much of the bias the media has perpetuated against Islam. Many Muslim rally-goers will sport signs reading, “Boo! I am a Muslim – and not just for Halloween!”

Embracing the satirical nature of the rally, such activists will be able to bring their message to a new and greater audience. Humor is a necessary step to overcome the notion that Muslims are distant – to be feared. Humor captures attention, breaking down social barriers.

I look forward to attending tomorrow’s rally. I come prepared for laughs, social change, and above all – rationality.

The latest installment in our free webinar program was a session on ‘Building your network to do good’. The discussion focused on basic community-building strategies and best practices. It centered around Marty Kearns’ approach to building networks, highlighting the importance of shared vision, story, social ties, communications, resource sharing, feedback and clear roles for all actors. Some highlights:

  • Know and reinforce your story and your vision at all times. People join a vision, not the tasks or details of a campaign.
  • Respect the importance of building social ties. Always structure in time for people to get to know each other. People join and stay with causes where they have friends.
  • Push power to the edges as much as you can. Structure leadership and responsibilities to support members in their functions. A successful network distributes power.
  • You probably already have most of the resources you need to put on events.
  • Use new technologies like blogs, wikis and Facebook to communicate. They can be really effective, they’re free, and they often combine social elements (see above for why this is important!).

    Shout out to everyone who joined the training, including those from the University of North Carolina, the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, and Bradley University.

    Stay tuned to our blog for announcements of upcoming trainings!

    Priti and I were talking to someone earlier this week about building a youth movement for sexual and reproductive health. This person questioned how lots of investments in individual youth projects could eventually scale up to become a movement. This person doubted that line was so clear.

    Indeed, this is an enduring question for all of us seeking positive change in our world. How do individual actions translate into bigger change?

    I don’t think that for a second we can discount the huge importance of small, individual acts. It’s only through individuals feeling a connection to an issue, talking to their friends, shouting into the wind for things to be better, that real change can happen.

    I’m particularly struck by the dominance of corporate and consumer culture in our efforts to achieve change today. It seems that so many folks – not all, of course, but many – are as interested in the t-shirt or the wristband or the cool photo on Facebook as actually changing things. Add the fact that most “youth organizations” seem to be dominated by bigger parent NGOs run by, well, not youth.

    Where does this leave those of us who are trying to build a youth movement? Thoughts?

    By Adwapa Donkoh
    Adwapa is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find our more about Adwapa below, and about our Student Issue Analysts.

    I know what you’re thinking? Water existed before any of us came into being, so technically, nobody should dictate who can or cannot have access to water. On the other hand, like all resources, water needs to be managed effectively in order to ensure equal access and use. While some think this should be the government responsibility, others believe private corporations will manage it more effectively.

    Today’s water crisis isn’t an issue of scarcity, but of access. YES ACCESS! According to water.org “more people in the world own cell phones than have access to a toilet!” Everyday, limited access to clean water and sanitation kills thousands leaving others with reduced quality of life.

    So now that we know the facts, my question to you is “WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO HELP?” Little drops of water make a mighty ocean (no pun intended). Even if our government(s) aren’t putting the right policies in place, there are some simple things we can do. It sounds like such a simple thing. But without clean water, economies crumble, livestock dies, and it’s impossible to grow basic staples. The lack of safe water is the mother of famine, disease, poverty and warfare.

    Today, I challenge you to step back and realize how you take water for granted. It’s as easy to forget water’s value when you have it, as it is to never forget your thirst when you don’t. Consider some of these options:
    Install water-saving showerheads. Plant drought-resistant gardens. Find leaks in your home and repair them. Take shorter showers. Replace old washing machines and dishwashers with water saving appliances. Most importantly, support organizations that bring fresh water to people who don’t have any such as Water for People, the Blue Planet Run Foundation and H2OAfrica.

    With everyone’s efforts, we can help turn this absurdity around.

    Adwapa Donkoh received a Bachelors degree from Spelman College. She is currently a student at American University, where she is getting her master’s in Public Policy. Her interest includes economic development in areas such as food, water and health. She is originally from Ghana West Africa.

    By Eamon Penland
    Eamon is one of AIDemocracy’s new 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find his bio, and a description of the Issue Analyst program, below.

    As we continue to withdraw troops from the region and shift our focus to other
    problems such as Iran, we, as young people, must continue to stay informed.
    That is our only real duty as citizens of the most powerful democratic country in
    the world.

    We don’t need to protest or go and fight necessarily. We are unfortunately
    fighting more difficult battles at home. Sure, the stock market and economic
    outlook look bleak, but we face other problems. Right now we are fighting the
    problems of ignorance and apathy.

    How is our democracy supposed to work if we have uninformed citizens voting
    and making decisions or, even worse, not voting at all? How many of my friends
    don’t have a clue what is going on in the world? My answers to these questions
    are it can’t and most. What do you think?

    So what role will we play as young people?

    Our role as young people should be to stay as well informed as possible. Well,
    this should be easier than ever, right? True, we do have more information at
    our fingertips than ever before. We are the technology generation, and we must
    realize that technology can and will influence our lives; however, we must also
    remember that this constant exposure to information is both good and bad. We
    can be easily blinded by others biases. It’s important that the issues at hand are
    understood and discussed.

    As young people we could make a difference by fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq
    and protesting, but, for most, those options aren’t realistic; however, influencing
    those around us is something we do every day. By influencing those around us
    we can in turn influence policy makers. There will be policy decisions to be made
    in the near future regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. Let’s make sure they are the
    right ones.

    Eamon is a senior Foreign Affairs Major at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. After taking classes regarding US foreign policy and learning about the Middle East, he realized the importance of staying up to date with what is going on in that region in order to make accurate and well thought out responses regarding issues taking place there. As we try to pull troops out of the region, he believes we must remember and learn from past mistakes so that we don’t create problems for ourselves in the future.

    We are excited to introduce 2010-2011 Issue Analysts! Analysts are a critical part of our network, providing essential ongoing analysis of key issues ranging from nuclear weapons to sexual and reproductive health. We have a really strong group joining us this year – folks who have profound experience with these issues, whether from traveling, studying, working, or experiencing first-hand. We have high school, college and graduate students writing for us, as well as some recent graduates. And our Analysts hail from 19 US states, as well as Pakistan, Azerbaijan, the Philippines, the UK and Egypt!

    Over the coming weeks we will be introducing our 2010-2011 Issue Analysts on our blog. For their first post, they’ve all been asked to discuss what impact they think students can have on their chosen issue. As always, please respond and let them know what you think. Let’s get this party started! Woot woot!

    By AIDemocracy Regional Coordinator Kristen Tebow.
    Yesterday, the International Justice Mission (IJM) completed a National Call-in Day for the Child Protection Compact Act (CPCA). Thanks to voices raised around the country, the CPCA was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (S. 3184) yesterday afternoon! This urgently needed legislation would help eradicate child trafficking in target countries around the world.

    Students from Kansas State University and the University of Kansas with AIDemocracy RC Kristen Tebow came together, calling Senators and writing letters, urging them to take action. Senator Brownback, Senator Boxer, and Senator Cardin all supported the legislation and it was passed in the Committee!

    Your voice is important! The CPCA will now move to the Senate floor for a full vote and I’d urge you to take three minutes and call your Senators to ask them to vote YES on this important piece of legislation.

    IJM Institute has even made the process simple with a link to find out who your senators are (Type in your state in the upper right corner and then look for the “contact” section on your senators’ websites.) and a sample script to make the call.

    There are a lot of things you could do in three minutes. Will all of them have a global impact?

    From ijm.org: “The Child Protection Compact Act, which was introduced in the House on June 5 by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), will provide assistance to select “focus countries” through the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP). These focus countries will receive support in building public justice systems that effectively investigate crimes against children and prosecute perpetrators in numbers sufficient to deter and eventually eliminate the crime. The legislation also authorizes increased assistance for care of survivors of trafficking.

    On March 25, 2010, Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Sam Brown back (R-KS) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a similar bill in the Senate, called the Child Protection Compact Act (S.3184), legislation designed to increase U.S. support to eradicate child trafficking in countries that have the will to end the crime but lack resources.”

    To learn more about the CPCA please visit http://www.ijm.org/justicecampaigns/cpca.

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