Pittsburgh Youth Statement
The Pittsburgh Statement
submitted by WFA's Youth Leadership
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
This paper is our effort to capture the energy and vitality of the meeting of the Youth Caucus at the 1997 Pittsburgh Fall Assembly. Before we met, we did not know each other very well -- in fact, many of us met for the first time at the Assembly. We came from different racial, geographic and educational backgrounds, and together comprised the largest youth attendance of a national meeting in many years. Despite our differences, we quickly found that we were strongly of similar mind in regard to WFA's present, and also in our vision of WFA in the future. Above all, we share a strong commitment to global change, and making WFA an effective instrument to doing so. We hope that this paper communicates at least some of this vitality and vision.
Out of great concern for the organization to which we devote our time, creativity, and energy, we the youth of the World Federalist Association present this statement in regard to the participation, recruitment, and retention of young people in WFA. We believe that efforts to recruit and retain young people in our organization have been ineffective, and so we have outlined the ideals which inspire us, the ones which do not, and offer suggestions as to how to approach members of our generation to correct this generational imbalance. We, the present youth leadership of WFA, weigh in on this issue for not only the sake of the present, but also for the sake of WFA's future.
We strongly believe that WFA's future rests upon greater involvement of young people. At present, a strong majority of our membership is over the age of 60, and the small amount of youth participation in WFA is indicative of impending organizational crisis -- as we have thus far failed to cross the generational gap to ensure the strong leadership and broad participation needed to carry WFA into the 21st century. Not only is youth participation necessary for WFA's future, but it is also imperative to inform WFA's course in the present.
These concerns have been raised numerous times, and we believe that we have a solution. We are the largest youth constituency in WFA in many years, and as a group stand behind the suggestions in this document. In this light, we hope that our thoughts are taken seriously, for we are the future decision-makers of WFA, our country and our world. As Asheville in 1947 illustrated, young people have great energy, and are able to envision a reality beyond conventional limitations with the determination to make it happen. Likewise, fifty years later, we are the ambitious youth of today who will steer WFA into the future toward the accomplishment of our goals.
Section I. WFA's message and the younger generation
This crisis of intergenerational participation stems from our inability to make WFA relevant to the concerns of our generation. Young people share WFA's idealism and aim to make a tangible difference in the world. Yet, a significant amount of our current approach has made WFA unable to connect with our generation: our goals and language are too lofty and thus difficult to relate to, and the use of empty gimmicks display a misunderstanding of today's youth. Global problems need global solutions, but these solutions must be viewed through a lens forged in the present, not in the past.
Central to this issue is the fact that young people have difficulty relating to the idea that the immediate establishment of world government is necessary. After WWII, the dropping of the bomb signaled to many that the world's destiny was wavering in the balance, and we needed a world government established immediately to prevent global annihilation. Times are different now. Although still a concern, thermonuclear Armageddon is not perceived as an imminent threat to our generation, and thus the need for establishing world government to contain this threat is not felt.
Also, we are hesitant about calling for world government because we do not trust government. We did not grow up with JFK, FDR and the New Deal. Instead, we grew up with the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and a steady stream of campaign finance scandals. Government has taken advantage of our generation. And so, most of our generation is reluctant to buy into the idea that world government is the answer to global problems.
However, we strongly believe there are global solutions to global problems. We understand that we need strong mechanisms of enforceable law on a global scale. But, in order to connect with younger people, we need to place less emphasis on grand theoretical institutions, i.e. world government, and more on the development of functional global structures, like an effective UN or International Criminal Court. In fact, they are practically the same thing, but it is a matter of emphasis on the function of these institutions rather than the mere form. This may just be a play on semantics -- i.e. "governance" over "government" -- but these shades of meaning will make all the difference to a young person, and they do to us.
We want to change the world, not today, not tomorrow, but eventually in solid pragmatic steps. The establishment of a world government is something which we see as a process, not an event. This strict "incremental" approach is not only politically practical, but also greatly widens our support base and can bridge the intergenerational gap. We see this as central to WFA's future.
Section II. Recruitment
Our initial approach to young people is most important. We must use vocabulary in our brochures and personal contacts that is both accessible and understandable to young persons, keeping in mind the approach suggested in the previous section. We must not try to get into the heads of young people with cheap gimmicks. Young people today are skeptical of sales-pitch type speeches about how "virtuous" our philosophy is or jingles about world law. They prefer people who speak straight to them, not as some cultural group to be courted and recruited. Along these lines, we should have more young people involved in recruiting new young members, for they will be more successful at recruiting students than retirees.
All young people are aware of global problems, and we suggest selling the idea of world federalism and global governance by identifying their concerns about global problems, and explaining how WFA addresses these problems by positing solutions at the only level at which they can be appropriately addressed. What makes WFA unique to young people is that we propose "global solutions to global problems" on a variety of issues such as the environment, human rights violations, and the prevention of violent conflict. Young people can identify with our ideals easier this way than they can by trying to envision grandiose world institutions.
Also, the opportunities that WFA can offer are very attractive to young people. Young people want to participate in their world and make a difference, and WFA, specifically through the Partners Program, can enable them to do so with goals that are easy to relate to and achievable. We can train them to be leaders in their communities and be effective on global issues, we can offer a forum to take part in and share their vision for a better world, and we can offer access to other organizations and their elected officials. Also, our internship programs give college students and recent graduates real-life experience in their fields.
Young people also need to be better indoctrinated to WFA. Often there is no succinct definition of global governance or federalism presented to young newcomers. For example, more background about the US's transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution could be given, making parallels between our domestic model and the world. The universality of the principles of democracy, rights and liberties should be stressed.
Also, we should encourage the development of modern audio-visual tools for presentations. Using yesterday's technology reinforces the image that the WFA is yesterday's organization. Young people use the Internet and e-mail extensively. The WFA web page is already bringing young people into our organization. Improvements that could be made include a distinct youth section and prominent advertising of our internship opportunities on the first page. Increased advertising of our organization through search-engines and listservs will demonstrate the modernity of our goals.
We should also create a list of successes to present to potential young members to show them that WFA is an action-oriented organization. We should draw on our recent successes as well as those of earlier decades for a description of organizational accomplishments.
Section III. Retaining Youth
If we implement these ideas, we'll have won half the battle. However, without an effective retention program, any new recruitment policy will not succeed. The impressions we make on young prospects in early contacts and meetings will determine if they come back.
One concern strongly resonated with all the young WFA members. When WFA gathers we seem to overemphasize the history and events of 30, 40, and 50 years ago. To young members, especially those that are new to the organization, this history seems self-indulgent and distant. Events prior to the late 1960's bear little if any relevance to what WFA should promote today. Prioritizing history over our plans for the future sends the message that the WFA is a social club that has outlived its usefulness, rather than an agent for constructive change today. This message marginalizes young people, and increases the generational gap among our membership. We don't want WFA to be perceived as a "has-been" organization, we want it to be an organization which is growing in its membership and influence, and has yet to see its best days.
Annual events can serve as a great incentive for young people to get involved. If they were made more appealing to young individuals, we would see an increase in youth activity and excitement. Parallel events for youth members, such as dinners and social outings, will encourage greater participation in annual events. And less expensive programs and meals will enable us to attend in greater numbers and participate. Perhaps this could be done by having members sponsor a "youth table," or have a "brown bag" section at each meal. Also, we recommend that every chapter sponsor at least one youth member to each annual event to increase our numbers and introduce more young people to WFA.
Better coordination of efforts between young members and chapters, such as ride sharing and staying together in hotel rooms, will increase attendance and decrease costs. Perhaps a youth fund could be maintained separate from the general budget to which sponsors could contribute.
Young members, especially board members, should be formally oriented about WFA's governing structure, so they can be empowered in their new position. They should immediately be assigned to a committee. There should also be encouragement for advancement to leadership positions -- not as tokens but on the merits of their abilities and perspective. We would like to be chosen in recognition for our positive contributions to WFA and as activists in general.
Even those of us who do not take on a very active role due to time or financial constraints still want to be involved. Greater effort should be taken to keep in touch with us. Develop a reliable method of keeping track of young members who graduate college, move across the country and begin new stages in their lives. Close personal contact can help us keep our mailing lists from becoming outdated, and encourage chapters to welcome members who are moving into their areas from other parts of the country. Perhaps the frequency of the newsletter can be increased so we are always aware that the organization is accomplishing its goals.
In 1947, WFA took off on the wings of the dreams and ambition of young people who believed they could change the world for the better. Fifty years later, we, the young leadership of today's WFA, ask for your support in laying the foundation for a future of a large membership, with strong, diverse leadership to meet the challenges of our emerging world.
We are the only organization in the world with the vision to change the way we govern our earth for the better. We make this statement in unison with the sole aim of achieving that goal within our lifetimes.
The Pittsburgh Youth Statement - Something that we can all be proud of!
by Marty Resick, WFA-Pittsburgh Vice President
(date a short time after the March 1998 WFA national conference)
At the recent WFA National Board Meeting (March 1998), some older members of WFA expressed misgivings about the Young Members Statement ("The Pittsburgh Statement") drawn up at the National Assembly in November 1997 by our more youthful members who attended in Pittsburgh. In particular, some older members ("keepers of the flame") worried aloud that the Pittsburgh Statement didn't buy into the core beliefs of Federalists because it questioned government (which youth had seen bring us Vietnam, Watergate, Star Wars, White Water, and other sad adventures). There was a frank, and very revealing exchange of views of the Pittsburgh Statement between the writers and the questioners for 1 1/2 hours one evening.
I took a different view that some of the other older members who worried about the youth buy-in to world government. I saw the Pittsburgh Statement as healthy, evolutionary and well-reasoned. It comes from youth's experience in knowing that the world government pit ch (as we have given it to them) is a difficult sell to their contemporaries.
Maybe I can take this view simply because I'm in the generation between these two groups - born in 1943, and learning that each generation reflects its different experiences in different ways. Maybe those of us born late in the 1930s through 1946 are mediators between the differing views of those before and after us.
There are two approaches, broadly, to world federalism - revolutionary, and evolutionary. Those who believe that we should go for "the whole enchilada", that an assembly to write a world constitution should be our next step, are revolutionaists a là Tom Paine in 1776. (There is a time and a place for Tom Paine, but you have to have the grievances he complained about in order to stir a revolution, and you also need Sam Adams and his Sons of Liberty).
The second approach is evolutionary - that world federalism will develop organically, as a natural growth, as we get connected by the Internet, as global satellites let us see and experience other cultures in their immediacy, as international space cooperation blossoms, and even as the Law of the Sea institutions begin to take hold and show us that we can govern a commons area of humankind in a rational manner.
I, personally, am much more comfortable with an evolutionary approach, as are many young members. That is not to say that everything will move smoothly toward our vision - there will be bumps, jolts, and turning points along the way (one of which is coming up in the next year - the U.S. debate on the International Criminal Court). But there is another reason I'm comfortable with an evolutionary viewpoint toward world government - all life evolves, and complex ideas or structures are created when the preconditions have reached a critical stage of development. Revolutions in life's evolving stages occur when we get hit by comets (a là 65 million years ago), or get invaded by aliens. I don't see either of these occuring very soon.
So, does this mean that the Pittsburgh Youth Statement is heretical, is a far cry from what other Federalists believe? I think not.
The Pittsburgh Youth Statement is a recognition that our old selling points for WFA need to be re-examined - they simply aren't working with today's youth. You can put old wine in new bottles, and better yet, you can mix in a little new wine with it! After all, one of the greatest missionaries (St. Paul) deliberately packaged his message (while preserving its core) to make an impact that culturally resonated with the group whom he was addressing. In one Greek city, he noted that, among the statues to the gods, there was one statue to "an unknown god". St. Paul picked up on that opening, and told the people that they were already praying to the God he knew; he then proceeded to tel them more about his message.
So, even though we are forced to re-examine our beliefs when a statement such as the Pittsburgh Statement comes along - well, that is healthy (and evolutionary). Our core beliefs of what we want (both young and old members of WFA) are not very different. Our packaging, our tactics, though, are different. Tactics wins battles; grand strategy wins wars. We should be willing to modify our tactics, while maintaing our overall strategic vision that we need an evolutionary world government in an often-chaotic world.
Personally, I am proud that the youth statement is labeled the "Pittsburgh Statement". I guess I am a regional chauvinist. (Speaking of "regionalism", that is another topic for another day that we federalists ought to explore in more detail.)
What Turns Young People On, and Off, about WFA?
by Adam Ortiz, WFA Partners Program Director
It is out of great concern for the future of our organization that I share my thoughts on WFA's vision and today's youth. For the purposes of this essay, I am using a loose definition of the word "youth" which includes people in the early thirties and younger. For reasons discussed below, I believe that the younger generation will be more drawn to WFA's incremental agenda, i.e. focusing on achievable, concrete goals, in keeping with our vision of world peace through global governance, rather than a focus on the immediate establishment of global government.
Contrary to popular opinion, today's youth is full of aware, ambitious, clever, and concerned people. According to Time magazine, we are more involved in our campuses and communities than our parents were by a significant margin, although you won't see us having sit-ins or mass demonstrations. We are also the first generation to have the world "global" be a natural part of our vocabulary. We know that the shirt on our back was made in Malaysia, and the toys from our childbood made in Taiwan. We have signed Amnesty International Christmas Cards for prisoners in Peru, and can still recall the images of starving Ethiopian children during 1984's Live Aid concert. With this vast potential of worldly young citizens, why have we been unable to attract them in significant number to WFA?
I believe that much of the explanation lies in the inability of WFA's worldview to transcend generational lines. WFA's guiding principles, along with most of our leadership, arose from a very different point in American and world history. The words and approach to solving global problems which were put forth at that time reflect a view of the world which young people do not identify with, although they may share WFA's basic principles. Yet, these perspectives on global problem-solving endure to the detriment of building youth membership. Allow me to illustrate by making two points.
My first point refers to the context of grand events which precipitated the founding of WFA in 1947. The 1940s were a tumultuous time. The world witnessed Hitler's shocking aggression across Europe, a war which engulfed the entire northern hemisphere, nuclear holocaust, genocide, and the emergence of a Cold War between the world's two superpowers. Indeed, at this time there were grand problems calling for grand solutions, i.e. the immediate establishment of global government to control such frightening forces which threaten the very existence of the human race. After all, the world seemd to be hanging in the balance.
Young people do not share this experience. Although there are threats to global peace and prosperity, non of them are immediate, or are perceived as such by my generation. A Freshman-year coordinator at the University of South Carolina states "Young people today are not as struck by life's fragility. They're not thinking about thermonuclear Armageddon." Likewise, young people do not feel like there is a glaring need for immediately establishing world government, although they would concede that there is a need for global governance. Young people don't go for "grand schemes" or simple solutions, indeed, "grandiose is out, pragmatic is in" according to Time. To sum up, I'll steal a phrase from a recent soda commercial targeting gen-X: "Don't insult my intelligence. Don't tell me what it 'is'. Just tell me what it does."
The second point refers to the "political" context from which our founders drew upon in the creation of WFA. From Teddy Roosevelt at the turn of the century to the Kennedys, people overwhelmingly believed that government "worked," and was the solution to society's woes. FDR's charisma and bold actions pulled an entire nation out of a debilitating depression by devising projects on a national scale by day, and comforting the population with words and wisdom over the radio at night. He and Truman displayed incredible leadership throughout WWII, mobilizing a country to stop the most terrifying acts of aggression and horror in history.
As a generation, we have nearly the opposite expereince. Our generation does not trust government. According to Richard Thay, a 32-year-old President of the civic group Third Millennium: "We grew up in a period with one instance of government malfeasance and ineptitide after another, from Watergate to Iran-Contra to the explosion of the Challenger to Whitewater. We believe that government can't be trusted to do anything right." Last month my father called and was screaming on and on about the Clinton campaign-finance scandals, and at one point questioned my casual demeanor about the situation, saying, "why aren't you upset about this." The reason was that this is the same old thing, I've heard it before, and have resigned myself to the fact that "that's just the way it is." A former VISTA volunteer explains "in the old days, politicaians at least pretended to have principles. Now they're not ashamed to switch values just to get elected. Every time we hear of a new sacndal, we're like 'Yup!' she says with a shrug. Even in our towns and cities we see government which not not work. We have all gotten headaches from dealing with the Postal Service, traffic ticket administrations, roads falling apart, corruption, and have witnessed a consistent pattern of government services failing the public. Even here in Washington our mayor Marion Barry was thrown in jail in 1989 for possession of crack cocaine -- while he was mayor! With this as our experience, how can we convince young people that a world government wold be a good thing?
My answer is to stress function over form. Gen-X is less interested in, and in fact is turned off by "institutions" and grand plans. "Today's twentysomethings may be cynical about institutions, but they remain remarkably opitimistic as individuals" concludes Time's article on Gen-X. We are more into function. WFA should approach our youth recruitment talking about "tackling world problems at the appropriate level" and "governance." Let's talk about the ICC trying war criminals and an effective United Nations negotiating diputes. Let's talk about a more democratic world order with the participation of all peoples.
For some Federalists this proposition will send flags up. "Hey! That's not World Federalism!" In one sense, they are right, in another, they are not. It is a matter of "how much" federalism and "when". There are many globalists in my generation, but few who would say that they are intereted in a so-called "global government," although they would be in favor of an ICC, of standing peacekkeeping forces, of a strong ICJ -- in short, of "global government," but not in those terms. Is that a play on semantics? Yet it is, but heck, semantics are very important.
In fact, this tack is very much in line with WFA's present course of action. WFA has begun to steer its course to concentrate on achievable goals, relevant issues, and concrete courses of action, as per the 'Vision for Global Change'. This is a wise move. It both gets results and widens our audience. I prpose that we keep moving in this direction if we truly want to attract more young people. In addition to the recent lack of focus on recruiting youth, our problem lies largely in that our message is often not in the right format or the right terms, and therefore not compelling enough to hit home with globally minded young persons. This time around we should know our our audience a little bit better and show a little more savvy.
- The Mt. Vernon Declaration (Compare this with the Pittsburgh Youth Statement)