On Tuesday, March 1,Young People Address the Nation (YPAN)orchestrated a response to President Biden’s State of the Union address. YPAN held their first event only one year prior: a town hall response to President Biden’s first 100 days in office inApril 2021.
Tuesday’s event partnered with over 40 organizations, all of which are dedicated to youth activism. Over 30 speakers participated, with their ages ranging from 15 to 20. The live stream was broadcasted directly following Biden’s address.
Viewers were first welcomed by hosts Sixto Cancel, CEO and Founder of organization Think of Us, and Jeremy Veramendi, a third-year undergraduate student at the University of California Merced. Divided into seven segments, the youth response started with Democracy and Civil Engagement.
Democracy and Civil Engagement
“I was happy to see that Biden launched a variety of bipartisan tactics,” Michelle Kim fromYouth Engaged 4 Changesaid. “But I did expect stronger backing for progressive ideals, particularly with border control and police reform.”
Kyle Zinger, founder ofGentle Love Diaper Pantry, said he believed the issues that most closely impacted middle-class Americans were, to an extent, “shrouded in darkness.” He further elaborated, saying “Biden did little to address the racial injustice which is plaguing our society today.”
Foreign Policy and Immigration
Many of the panelists on foreign policy, such as Aarushi Shen, were quick to discuss Biden’s sanction plans in regards to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Study after study has shown that sanctions don’t impact the rich and powerful of the country. They only really have an economic impact on the working-class people.”
Shen, a member of theCODEPINK Peace Collective, also discussed how such sanctions would be considered harmful to other groups of people. “I think it’s important to remember how integrated Russia’s economy is with the international economy. A lot of countries across Africa and the Middle East rely on Russia for food. These sanctions are gonna have a devastating impact across the board.”
“[Biden] failed to recognize how ICE has overpoliced immigrant communities,” said Jonathan Lam, a member of Amnesty International. Lam then referenced the two officials, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rep. Lauren Boebert, whoshouted, “Build the wall,” during Biden’s address.
“I think that just shows how Trump-era policy is remaining in Biden’s administration.”
Aria Zutshi, aPeace Firstambassador, is glad that, when talking about education, Biden promised to put money back into HBCUs. “I am glad that he is starting to allocate some of those funds even if it isn’t the highest priority.”
“What he did not talk about was what goes on inside the classroom. [Students] demand to have the truth,” Tamara Morgan, an executive fellow atOur Turn, said. “You wouldn’t know what students talk about because adults don’t ask. You have parents showing up at school boards speaking for the child,” Morgan said, referring to a discussion about Critical Race Theory.
Community Safety and Justice
“In order to end gun violence, we must confront the ways in which law enforcement's brutal targeting of communities of color contributes to gun violence and injuries,” Isabella D’Alacio, policy associate atMarch for Our Lives, shared in response to Biden’s move to fund the police.
“I was a little struck. I was like your entire campaign this past year has been about justice and reform and this and that,” Anye Young, Peace First ambassador said. “I have a lot to say about the police anyway, but if you are putting so much funding into police, you are neglecting the fact that you aren’t putting enough funding into the community.”
Climate and Environment
“This is a topic, to be very clear, thatPresident Bidenvery aggressively campaigned on. It was one of the main issues that young people really cared about, but it was pretty much absent in the entire State of the Union speech,” Shiv Soin, executive director atTreeage, said.
“In terms of some of the positives he did mention, he talked about electric vehicle stations, energy credits, some programs around home weatherization. These are three solid programs; however, they're not gonna be tackling the larger issues at hand.”
Jobs for the Future and Innovation
“Often throughout the address, Biden mentioned that he wanted to invest or sort of this idea of shared investing within America’s future and that starts with investing in education,” a member of Youth Engaged 4 Change shared.
Discussing the pandemic and the idea of a new normal, Sedona Allen Moreno Castelan, a health programs specialist, said, “We haven’t even had time to sit and think about all of the death and the suffering and just the impact that this pandemic has had.”
“When I think about the state of this planet, it brings me so much grief.”
After the youth responded to each segment topic, the hosts wrapped up the event by inviting the public to join them in their collective call to action, asign on letter from Young People to the Nation.
You can watch the full eventhere. For more information on this event or partnership inquiries visithttps://youngpeopleaddress.org/contact/.