Behind each sweet victory, there is usually a sweet idea.
So it is heartening to see that The Roosevelt Institution, the nation’s first student think tank, has been channeling its focus on just that: crafting ideas to improve the world.
“One year ago, representatives of progressive college students across America came together at the Roosevelt Policy Expo in DC and at the FDR Home in Hyde Park, NY, to discuss the most pressing issues facing our generation,” says the description on the organizations web site. “After setting ourselves three challenges, we returned back to our college and university campuses and performed a year’s worth of public policy research … As the year came to a close, we selected the best 25 ideas that we wanted to bring to the public policy discussion.”
Last Friday, at the Institution’s Policy Expo, the fruits of these efforts were presented in the form of published reports, which include 25 ideas each on three pressing issues: access to higher education, working families in America, and the energy crises.
“The idea was to try and connect students to the policy making process,” said Nathaniel Loewentheil the incoming executive director of the Roosevelt Institute. “According to Loewentheil, the idea behind the Policy Expo was to have the students serve as the panelists, while it was the lawmakers who made up much of the audience. “Rather than have students listen to adults on panels, we wanted it the other way around. It was a big success,” he said. The Roosevelt Institution plans to do the same project each year, with different issues.
The ideas vary in size and scope. Some entail modest and simple reforms such as Jay Cole’s idea that literature about the college application process be given to anyone who applies for a driver’s license. Others are quite bold such as Stephen Durham’s proposal for free, universal higher education to all Americans using the 1944 GI Bill as a model.
But most importantly, they all have the potential to spark much-needed discussions over these important policy matters, and the project succeeds in giving young people — and their fresh ideas — a chance to be heard.
This post was co-written by Michael Corcoran, a former Nation intern and freelance journalist residing in Boston. His work has appeared in The Nation, the Boston Globe and Campus Progress. he can be reached at www.michaelcorcoran.blogspot.com. Please send us your own ideas for “sweet victories” by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.