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Straight Talk for Teens by Lauren Forcella

Teens weigh in on how to make a better world
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Dear Readers: Each new year I ask the panelists: What bugs you most about the world? How would you make the world better? Last week’s “better world” column covered concerns about how digital networking has diminished face-to-face interactions, depth of thought, real relationships, even real bodies. This week we present comments on root causes of peace, healing the financial crisis and revamping our schools. Blessings on the light within that makes us good and true.
~ Lauren

Peter, 24, Monterey: The world would be so much better if people took time to get to know their supposed enemies. It’s much harder to hate when you know the hardships someone has faced. You realize they aren’t so different.

Justin, 24, Redding: There’s an Internet meme that uses a contextually unaware alien who asks questions like, “People, why do you throw away food while others starve to death?” Or, “Humans, why do you bomb each other?” It hits home. If I could change the world, I would spread empathy. Just because I don’t know you, or we disagree, doesn’t make you less human. Other people are not the enemy.

Katelyn, 17, Huntington Beach: I want real change, but not Occupy Wall Street. It has one glaring fault: hypocrisy. Changes in government and big business need inside action, not a public sit-down. The rich shouldn’t support the poor, because you can’t make everyone equally rich, but you can make them equally poor. Jobs will come if we stop importing all our goods. Real change requires occupying one’s life, not the streets.

Lara, 20, Concord: As a political science major, I’ve been im-mersed in Oakland’s Occupy movement. The biggest rally was 90,000 people, including many professionals and college professors – all peaceful. It’s exciting to be part of direct democracy and scary that government is reacting with violence and unconstitutional new laws. I want people to realize their power to demand justice from those who destroy our country with corruption and greed. I want people to stop being selfish and individualistic and take responsibility for creating a true democracy. I want people to educate themselves, not blindly follow what the media says. Only a power shift will manifest what “we the people” need – not what makes banks and corporations richer and millions of children hungrier.

Savannah, 18, Folsom: College is so expensive! Our grant system discourages hardworking students by requiring them to report employment income on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This should be dropped. Student loans should be waived for extended hardship and good work.

For more discussion, to ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit www.straighttalktnt.com or write to P.O.Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.

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More from Lauren Forcella
Each week it is joyful and sometimes heart-wrenching to facilitate the panelists helping other young people, their parents and families. Straight Talk has more than 85 volunteer panelists (and counting) between the ages of 14 and 25 from 11 states. In our country there are 40 million teens and young adults, many with issues they don’t talk to their parents about. As youth and family services are stripped, it becomes harder to get help. Our column works on the principle of peer-to-peer helping and every week we provide someone an answer, inspire someone to make a better choice and contribute to someone’s increased social and emotional intelligence.

Straight Talk TNT is now a not-for-profit organization (status pending, which means we can begin receiving donations). If every Straight Talk reader will take a moment to send us $5, we will meet our 2012 budgetary goals. Please consider this small tax-deductible gift today. Together we can help many. You may donate on our website, www.straighttalktnt.com, or send a check to Straight Talk TNT, P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.

Thank you in advance and happy new year!