News from the Consulate Cape Town
IRC Rocks the Vote with Youth on U.S. and S.A. Elections
October 15, 2012
Vice Consul Forrest Graham and Information Resource Center Director Susan Dymond facilitated two workshops with eighty Grade 8 – Grade 11 learners from Students for a Better Future (SBF) Foundation. The topic up for discussion was “Youth Votes! 2012 Elections in the U.S. and S.A.: What’s at Stake?” This was a perfect fit for the Foundation’s annual Current Affairs slot. To ignite the process, a YouTube clip of the recent Republican leader nomination debates between “a hawk” and “a dove” candidate was shown to the youth audience. This generated an active Q&A session in preparation for their participation. As a practical and thought exercise, the groups formed into sub-groups to nominate a hypothetical candidate for parliament, created a campaign platform, and discussed methods for disseminating their messaging, including the importance of social media. The universal concerns – jobs creation, better education, housing, health care, equal rights, democracy and the ultimate eradication of poverty – reverberated around the room as each candidate stood in front of their peers to deliver their platform.
The upcoming elections in both the United States and South Africa, a synchronization that only takes place every twenty years, framed this relevant and dynamic dialogue session around new trends in campaigning and the value of making a difference by being an informed voter. The students cited political candidates’ slick presentations, government corruption, and voter complacency as obstacles to true equitable development. The difficulty, they said, is slicing through the rhetoric to get to the policy. Of greater value, they also discussed methods for funding that platform, acknowledging the very real gulf between populist campaign promises and the reality of policy implementation. These academically gifted learners are part of SBF’s Scholarship Program. They have been placed in the top nine schools in the Cape Province. The aim of the program is to allow them to fully develop their talents and make a valuable contribution to their country, communities and families. This youth audience will be eligible to vote in the next election cycle and they are better informed now to vote for their future and to make a difference.