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Justin Trudeau tells youth they must be leaders today

When Justin Trudeau went to Dawson College October 23 to talk about politics and youth, he quickly dispelled the notion that students are apathetic.

“Young people in general get a pretty bad rap for being disconnected, disengaged and apathetic,” said Trudeau, who is the Liberal member of parliament for Papineau. But this is the wrong assumption, he said. “More young people than ever before are getting involved in non-governmental organizations.” Among the organizations he cited are Greenpeace, Amnesty International, local community groups and student groups.

“They’re out there fighting an issue, voicing their concerns. They just don’t think that politics is a particularly interesting use of their time.”

The electoral strategies of the political parties based on slander and short-term goals are not overly inspiring, he said. Canadians of all ages are becoming more cynical about politics and are “tuning it out or turning it off.”

“Take on responsibilities and shape the world,” Justin Trudeau told students at Dawson College last month Photo: Martin C. Barry

He said it’s hard for anyone to see how stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors for this blue team, orange team, or red team is going to change the world in a positive way.

“It seems ludicrous, particularly when we see that more and more politics are [...] just figuring out a way to get a little more power.

“It’s easy to get elected. Pick a group with enough votes and completely marginalize another group and brush them aside. You’re going to get yourself elected. Stephen Harper is proof of that. But it’s no way to govern a country or be responsible.”

He said that politics have fallen into easy sound bites full of superficiality, headlines and attacks. The goal should be to unite everyone for a common goal, and that can be done, he said, by having conversations about the direction we would like our country to take as a united front.

“[Short-term political goals] are no way to pull together all of our extraordinary diversity. It’s always easier to divide.”

He said the days of a political party or leader being able to change things is over. He cited the United States as an example.

“As extraordinary a leader as Barack Obama is, he’s not going to be able to do it alone. He cannot succeed in turning the enormous juggernaut that is the United States onto a more balanced and prosperous path without the input, mobilization and action of hundreds of millions of citizens, because they are part of the solution.”

He explained that the future of democracy and politics relies on the citizens being engaged and active. He told the students that they are not the leaders of tomorrow, even though they are told that in the hopes of inspiring them.

“Being the leaders of tomorrow is conditional. If you do your homework, graduate from college, get a good job and a promotion, then maybe you can be a leader.”

He says this mentality is false and detrimental.

“You’re leaders today. That’s what we need you to be. It’s how we need you to act. Take on responsibilities and shape the world around you.”

Unless young people do this now, the next century is going to be a depressing one, Trudeau said. “We need to collectively and individually step up.”



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