The Aftermath of Trump: A Challenge for Education and Community Leaders and the Rise of Youth Activism

International Leadership Association
Dr. Cheryl Burleigh
Presentation Date: 
Friday, October 13, 2017
Event or Conference: 
19th Annual Global Conference Leadership in Turbulent Times
Presentation Type: 
Boyer's Domain: 
Presentation Location: 
Square – Brussels Meeting Centre
rue Mont des Arts
1000 Brussels
Short Description We need to rise above. Current research literature on student leadership and activism, current events, and social justice movements will frame this discussion on ways to empower students to become leaders and activists for what is moral, ethical, and just. Specific questions will be poised to focus the roundtable in what promises to be an insightful and important conversation. Detailed Abstract A candidate for the highest office in the land has done more damage and undone the tireless work of countless educators, community outreach programs, organizations within cities and towns small and large during a relentless barrage of hate speech, sexism, unethical and racist comments, off the cuff remarks without self-editing, and Twitter rants displaying no moral compass. Even after the results of the election, the behavior has not been reigned in or curtailed. False media and lies prevailed. The editors of the Washington Post and New York Times admit more responsibility should have been taken in fact checking and holding the president accountable for comments made and broadcasted (Todd, 2017). The print media and news organizations spent time and resources responding to Twitter tirades instead of hard-hitting journalism to vet the business practices, personal relationships and conduct in his private life, and the rhetoric and personality of the president (Todd, 2017). The concern and undertone of not holding a person accountable; the belief that the behavior displayed is acceptable. Immediately after the election, open acts of hatred; racism, sexism, hate speech, and defiance were seen at high schools and universities throughout the US. “The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 867 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation in the United States in the 10 days after the November 8 election” (Yan, Sgueglia, & Walker, 2016, para. 2). A comment by the president to Lesley Stahl (2016) during the 60-Minute November 13th interview, when asked about the rise of visible racism and hate crimes and speech, "If it helps, I will say this, and I will say right to the cameras: Stop it” (para. 157). Is this a sign of leadership, truly supposing by stating ‘stop it’ during a national newsmagazine broadcast will halt, resolve, and undo the language of his campaign? The President of the United States and mannerisms are ones to be emulated. The office and subsequently the person who occupies the office is viewed with respect. But in light of this outcome, how? How can our young adults rise above what has now been set as an example of acceptable social conduct? These are questions educators, counselors, administrators, schools, colleges, and universities must address. Bullying, a topic educators, counselors, and administrators deal with daily more so with the advent of social media, was brought to the forefront amidst students ‘believing’ the behavior is now acceptable since the president advocates and condones such rhetoric. School communities are now in a position to react positively amid the pain and the festering of open emotional wounds. A call for action is needed within in schools, colleges, universities, and communities, where open, honest dialog occurs on a regular if not on a daily basis in how to address the issues of hate speech, bullying, sexism, racism, and other acts of violation against those who do not look like us. Where do we begin? Students need to believe the school they attend is a safe haven, free from the whirlwind of uncensored and hurtful comments flying through the airwaves via the internet and social media. As educators, counselors, and administrators, we need to listen to students. Seek out students who want to get involved and comfort those who want to talk in private yet do not know where to turn. Next, school community activism. Plato stated that the price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Therefore, positive activism should be cultivated in the school, where opportunities for students to seek and create positive change in the classroom, the school campus, or in the local community. If the school currently has a leadership class or program, the students within the class should spearhead a daily acts of kindness campaign and other programs which unifies the student body and school community. If a leadership class does not exist, school staff and administrators should seek students to form a coalition to mentor and empower students. Students who are not normally active in the school community should be approached by a trusted staff member or peer, find out why they may not be involved in campus activities, encourage these students to become active in the school via a buddy system, and explore the hidden talents of these students. Each student is a valuable resource, an agent of positive change. All that is needed is for someone to stop, take notice, encourage, support, and embrace that person for who they are and the contributions they can make to the school, community, and ultimately to one another. We will need to rise above. Now is the time to advocate for students to act as the true role models for our country, lead by example of what is acceptable behavior, and become activists of kindness. The roundtable discussion will begin with a brief overview of current research literature of student leadership and activism. This discussion will focus on current events and social justice movements to empower students to rise above barriers put in place to curtail activism. The questions to be discussed include the following: How has the president’s recent executive orders and rhetoric affected the youth leadership movement? What should be the role of youth leaders in bringing awareness via activism to the school campus and community, considering heightened anxiety regarding religion, sexism, bullying, and immigration in a time of instant uncensored media, false news, and alternative facts? How can youth leaders within schools and the community take positive steps in reducing tension on a divisive campus? Given the national and world events that have taken place on the ban of US immigration, how would you encourage youth leaders to effectively inform the public of their concerns? What would be the calls of action? What can youth leaders learn from activists such as Fred Korematsu, Dolores Huerta, and Willa Brown? How can those lessons inform youth leaders to move forward; thus, having an impact on social justice movements at the local, regional, state, or national level?