Summit addresses political youth

Photo courtesy of XU Republicans on Twitter | (Left to right) Aimee Boivin, Sam Peters, Lily Hutkowski and Cole Branham were among students who met with Central and South American leaders.

In a closed-door meeting on April 17, 12 eminent political and social leaders from Central and South America met with the leadership of Xavier University College Democrats and College Republicans for a summit on youth participation in the American political process. The summit, organized by the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, is part of an ongoing effort to “build global understanding and promote international awareness through education, information and exchange of people and ideas,” according to an invitation sent to participants.

The international leaders — including Beatriz Alvarez, a city councilmember for the municipality of La Paz in Bolivia, and Rosalinda Guadalajara, governor of the Raramuri community in Mexico — have been touring cities throughout the United States to meet with local youth and minority leaders to “illustrate strategies to engage youth, underserved, excluded and minority populations in the U.S. society to increase their participation in political affairs,” the invitation stated.

Their most recent stop was Cincinnati, where they spoke with a panel composed of Xavier Republicans President Cole Branham and Vice President Lily Hutkowski and Xavier Democrats President Aimee Boivin and Treasurer Sam Peters. The group spoke about the work of their clubs in promoting political activity on campus, specifically in the areas of minority involvement and youth participation.

After the presentation, the summit opened up to a question-and-answer portion intended to foster a cross cultural dialogue about American politics. Venus Caballero, a transgender rights activist from Nicaragua, called on the student leaders to be more outwardly inclusive towards marginalized groups as they progress in politics.

“Put yourselves in their shoes and fight hard for those communities,” she implored through a translator.

The discussion was largely open and honest with little held back. At one point, Marbel Caicedo, an Ecuadorian activist, exploded at the Republican representatives in the room, lambasting conservative American foreign policy toward Israel and the recent military intervention in Syria. Likewise, a Guatemalan activist who asked not to be identified because of political considerations, sharply criticized the American pro-life stance on abortion, calling it a construct of White supremacy and patriarchy.

After the summit, Hutkowski offered a response to the critiques: “I know that we have some difference of opinion, but I think the most important thing is that we’re all passionate, and when people care about their communities, that’s the thing that can make the most impact.”

During closing remarks, Samuel Samuels, a Panamanian business adviser with Dell, expressed frustration with the reluctance of young Americans to run for office and impact meaningful change in the political arena. “Don’t be afraid of what you can do,” he advised the panel through an interpreter.

“It gave me a lot of food for thought to think about for my next steps, especially as I’m a senior and where I want to be down the road,” Boivin said when asked about the summit.

“What an inspiration for a group of people to travel around the world to learn more about the different political systems and how all of us can work together,” Branham said.

Peters added: “They weren’t afraid to ask the big questions, and I liked that. That’s something that politics tends to stay away from, getting to the root of problems and a lot of that was challenged in the room today.”

By: Ryan Kambich ~Staff Writer~