AIF Blog

Festival Recap: Young Adult Forum

Jul 12, 2018
CATEGORY: Society, U.S.A.
Journalist Maria Hinojosa on stage at the Young Adult Forum at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June.
The third annual Young Adult Forum in June began with emcee, Pete Dominick roving the room and questioning attendees at random. He asked them to state the issues they're most passionate about. As topics like Immigration reform and racism were said aloud, it was clear Dominick’s ice breaker underscored this crowd's diversity of concerns.

The program consisted of short panels, poems, and small group discussions. Each time slot was bookended by a short stand-up piece that kept the mood light before attendees tackled some of the major issues facing the world today. The first presentation was a poem from actor and activist Garcia imploring young people to escape “slacktivism” culture and take to the streets to make real change. Garcia’s poem was followed by poems from Jo Altmaier, who emphasized that you are never too young to be an activist, and Erica Massender, who extrapolated on love and its cruel and unique manifestations. 

The interspersed panels provided attendees with the opportunity to interact firsthand with different types of activist groups, ranging from grassroots organizations to major corporations. Augustus Harris and Araceli Ramirez talked about programs they started in schools, Harris’ program was created to keep kids out of the school-to-prison pipeline in Philadelphia, and Ramirez’s effort works to assist immigrants along the Texas Border. Maria Hinojosa, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Gaby Pacheco talked about working to bring awareness to the plights of legal and illegal immigrants in the US, and their attempts to break the status quo in the media.

Katie Stagliano shared her incredible personal journey. She founded Katie’s Krops as a child, and her single garden has grown into a nationwide movement with gardens in 36 states. Ash Bhat and Tristan Harris spoke with tech writer Ina Fried about their use of innovative tech solutions to mitigate the spread of fake news online. 

The wide range of topics the panelists covered demonstrated that activism takes different forms, but a common thread is a passion for change. 
The final presentations of the Forum included a screening of Clint Smith's Ted Talk on ‘speaking up. The talk inspired discussions in small groups. Within my group, the conversation revolved around education reform and the necessity of teachers allowing political conversation in their classrooms. Finally, the youth activists came together and used their brilliance as a team to create innovative solutions to the problems the small groups raised. The combination of YAF's thought-provoking poetry, inspiring panelists, and collaborative conversation created motivation for the young activists to bring their solutions to the world.
Written by Emerson Jacobson, guest blogger and high school student