America’s most progressive generation wants a voice in the 2020 Presidential election.
“Our political climate today is very unstable, and I feel like the only way we’re going to get change is if we educate ourselves,” said 17-year-old Suraj Moorjani, a senior at Valley High School in Des Moines.
Moorjani was one of about 200 people to attend the Des Moines Register and Des Moines Public School Youth Voices 2020 Candidate Forum held at Roosevelt High School on Sunday morning.
Six Democratic presidential candidates — Tulsi Gabbard, Michael Bennet, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, Joe Sestak and Tom Steyer — answered questions from students and teachers during the forum.
Questions covered a variety of topics such as marijuana, vaping, electric cars, health care, gay rights, women’s rights and college affordability.
Moorjani didn’t ask any of the candidates a question, but if he had the chance he would have asked about college affordability since he’s headed to college next year.
Meanwhile, his friends Gracia Koele, 17, and Allison Cook, 16, both said they would ask about climate change.
Several questions about environment were raised throughout the day. Joe Sestak fielded one of those questions and gave a somber answer.
“In implementing, let’s say the Green New Deal, even if you could do it in a decade — if that’s all we do — it’s insufficient and it won’t matter,” Sestak said. “85 percent of all greenhouse global emissions come from abroad. China will build 1,600 coal plants in the next decade.”
He said America needs a leader who recognizes the challenges ahead and can lead the entire world in combating climate change.
Sanders told the students that climate change is one of the main reasons they should participate in the 2020 election.
“If you are concerned that the planet you are living in may not be healthy and inhabitable for your kids and your grandchildren and future generations, you have to participate,” Sanders said.
Koele is confident in her generation’s ability to influence the climate conversation.
“I think our age group can have a big influence,” Koele said. “And I think the only way to have an influence is to be as informed as possible.”
The places young people these days are getting information about the election seems to vary.
Koele reads a lot about the 2020 race online, although she said she’s careful to double check both news sources and individual reporters for biases.
Cook attended the forum because she believes it’s important to get her information first-hand.
“It’s my first time voting, so I want to make sure I am as informed as possible and I think the best way to do that is to hear directly from the candidate,” Cook said. “This is a really accessible way to be informed and hear directly from the candidates.”
Joe Maxwell, a 16-year-old from Valley, keeps up with the political horse race on television and tunes into the radio, but he strays from a couple major networks he believes are biased.
“I feel like a lot of the news outlets that the GOP calls fake are really nonpartisan, like CBS and MSNBC,” Maxwell said. “I feel like CNN can get a bit too liberal, so I kind of stay away from them. Also, Fox News — I sometimes hate watching them, so I try and stick to NPR.”
Yang emphasized the importance of the Iowa Caucuses while on stage. He said 40,000 Iowans can change the world.
The students certainly seemed to understand how important their votes are, which is why they showed up to school to listen to politicians talk policy at 8:30 a.m. on a Sunday.
Moorjani said his generation needs to figure out who they want to vote for and they need to start voting now because “we are the first state and we do have a really big say in terms of what happens, so I think it’s important we are educated.”
by Paige Godden