Democracy at Work

I have gotten the opportunity to visit communist China where citizens have hardly any rights and I’ve walked the streets of Cuba hearing stories of brilliant men and women only making $15 a month while the government gathers wealth. So although I will not hide my disappointment over the inauguration of Donald Trump as our 45th President, I do stand by the fact that we are the greatest democracy on earth.

I had the honor of spending 4 days with high school scholars from all over the world at the 2017 Envision Presidential Summit in Washington DC. This summit was packed with learning opportunities, chances to meet people from all over the country and world, and most importantly, a time for me to formulate my opinions. We spent time in smaller groups creating presentations around very difficult topics such as:

droneTechnology and the Future of Humanity

healthcareHealthcare, Disease, and the World of Tomorrow

earthWater, Wildlife and Weather in 2050

peaceImagining Peace/Conflict and Compromise in a Global Age (My Group’s Topic)

educationEducation, Innovation and Equity

womenWomen and Global Leadership

These change-agent groups spent four days defining our problem, asking essential questions, learning to work as a team and creating a solution-based statement paper to present to the entire Summit. Our group’s presentation was called the Trinity of Trade. Our whole presentation was centered around trade between the United States, Russia, and China and how if we enforce better trading laws, tariffs, and agreements, we will also bring about peace.

While we weren’t hard at work with our groups, we got the opportunity to hear from several different speakers including:

Paul Begala, CNN Commentator and advisor to President Clinton

Ziauddin and Malala Yousafzai – Human Rights activists and Nobel Peace Prize Recipients

Carly Fiorina, CEO and Presidential Candidate

Spike Lee, Director and Actor

Abby Wambach, US Women’s Soccer Team

Colin Powell, Soldier and Former Secretary of State

I was honored to meet General Powell backstage and ask him this question from the audience “As a former Secretary of State, which part of the world most concerns you? Iran? North Korea?  Russia? And why?”  His answer was simple. He doesn’t find these countries to be a true threat to the United States right now. Which my immediate reaction was how could he be so sure! But he was positive that for at 20+ years, these three countries impose no true threats to the United States.

Probably the most memorable part of this process was when I stood on the National Mall on a cloudy, rainy Friday morning to see Donald Trump sworn in as our President. Since this is my blog, I feel like I can take this opportunity to share some of my personal thoughts on our new president. I feel as though he isn’t the most fit candidate for the role of POTUS but, now that he has been sworn in, I can only hope that he will serve our country well. Many of the participants in the Summit were Trump supporters and I tried very hard to be respectful, but also ensure that my voice was heard.

The last evening we came together and celebrated with a Gala at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. It was fun to get all dressed up with my new friends and dance in a beautiful museum full of incredible planes from our Nation’s history.

No matter what your views are on this election, be a leader of change and don’t be afraid to make your voice heard!

XoXo – Penn

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