Young Minnesotans urge attention for international concerns
By Ibad Jafri, St. Paul Academy
As the 2012 presidential race intensifies, the candidates are battling primarily over domestic concerns. But many Americans, especially younger ones, are anxious to hear more discussion of global issues. Here are the opinions of a few Minnesotans, selected because they reflect the growing diversity of their generation.
Alexander Hassan, 19, of St. Paul, is an international economics and business student at the University of St. Thomas. “The most important issue to me, personally, would probably be the Israeli-Palestinian situation, as well as other key issues popping up all over the Middle East,” because it is “the most dangerous situation facing the world right now.”
However, Hassan believes that financial troubles in the Eurozone deserve the most discussion because they can be affected by the upcoming election. “Economics is based on people-to-people relations and how people feel,” says Hassan, whose father – of Indian ancestry – emigrated from Guyana in South America. “What the United States or any other major country decides to do will affect how people feel – if they’re confident about the Euro, if they’re confident about the Eurozone as a whole.”
Aaron Bohr, 34, of St. Paul, is a former teacher and soon-to-be Jesuit seminarian. Bohr, whose mother is of Chinese ancestry and who speaks Mandarin, describes his religious and political beliefs as justice-centered. “In terms of immigration, particularly undocumented immigrants, what is most humane and just? … I’m all in favor of granting undocumented workers more amnesty.”
Bohr’s views on social justice also make him concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Syria. “It’s reached the point where [the Syrians] have gone into civil war and sectarian violence. That makes intervention [as in Libya] very challenging. … I think it’s very, very important that the U.S. partner with the Arab League. But I don’t know what more the U.S. can do.”
Cheng Lee, 23, is the district executive for the Northern Star Council of the Boy Scouts of America. Lee, whose family is Hmong, is one of many Minnesota voters concerned about immigration-related issues. He believes that America’s role in a global society is defined in part by its ethnic diversity. “America is becoming a lot more diverse,” Lee says. “In a country with so many immigrants it’s necessary to address global issues.”
Lee also would like to see a more noninterventionist American foreign policy. “America needs to know when to step in and step out [of foreign conflicts]. Rather than causing the problem, we need to be a part of the solution.”
Aakib Khaled, 23, of Edina, is a business analyst. “It’s unacceptable for us to allow people to die [in Syria],” says Khaled, whose parents are Bangladeshi. He’s visited several Middle Eastern nations as a Fulbright Scholar.
He would like to see American policymakers take some sort of action. “People just say, ‘Oh yeah, things are going pretty wild out there,’ but if you refer to it that way then it’s very easy to forget that people are trying to fight for a positive future for themselves and are dying in the process.”
Although he knows that domestic concerns will always be a greater priority in election campaigns, Khaled thinks international issues like the Euro crisis are of tremendous significance. “I think bailouts and some sort of financial system to keep these ailing economies from collapsing is important.”
Sinthia Turcios, 18, Minneapolis, is a student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Turcios, who is of Latino heritage, takes note of both candidates’ stances on immigration issues. “I think [Romney] has been avoiding it; he just has no say on it whatsoever. I think that’s going to affect him in the upcoming election,” says Turcios, who plans to pursue a journalism career. “Even a decision that goes against Latinos would be better than having nothing to say.”
Meanwhile, she believes that President Obama’s recent decision to exempt certain young illegal immigrants from deportation will help him with Latino voters. “He realized that if he didn’t do something now he would lose a lot of the support from the Latino community that voted for him in 2008.”
Regardless of which specific issues concern them most, the young people interviewed agree that international issues are vital in this election year.
“I think that if we don’t have a larger world view, then we can’t be a good home to all of the ethnic minorities that live in this country,” Turcios says. “If we don’t focus on global communities, we won’t be able to communicate with other nations and will be perceived as arrogant and ignorant with little regard for the rest of the world.”