‘Leaders’ to visit Capitol Hill, meet legislators to bridge gap

“Tomorrow’s Leaders” will take to Capitol Hill in March, drawing on what they’ve learned of activism at this week’s conference sponsored by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity at Boston University. The Foundation’s Youth Initiatives Commission plans to meet with senior officials from the White House and Congress when it visits Washington, D.C., to advise them on issues involving America’s youth. The Commission will work to bridge the gap between politicians and youth, while trying to aid in ending hatred. “We want to amplify these voices in their communities, on Capitol Hill, and in the U.S. government,” said David Phillips, who helped organize this week’s conference. Wiesel will accompany the group to Washington, and said this year’s seminar built on its predecessor. In 1995, 30 youths from around the globe converged on Venice for the original meeting. Four of them attended this year’s conference as mentors, and “all our hopes invested in them were justified,” Wiesel said. The Venice group, though assembled from different countries, manifested “into one group in just 48 hours,” Wiesel said. The same is expected of the Boston group, all of whom will take what they learned this week and organize sequel conferences at their own schools, according to Phillips. Each student will submit a plan to the EWF, who will assist them with grants and funding. BU Chancellor John Silber said conference delegates were an “excellent group of young people,” saying the 15- and 16-year-olds held a strong grasp of activism, diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of programs. “We can only believe they go away with enlarged horizons, cautionary tales and inspiring ideas,” Silber said. Three Massachusetts youths were among the delegates in attendance at “From Indifference to Action,” which focused on activism in America as opposed to the world, Wiesel said. The BU Academy was also invited to observe and participate, an opportunity they relished, according to Silber. “You had to keep them down. They would’ve taken over the conference if they had the chance. They were very excited to be invited to participate,” Silber said. The conference opened Monday night with an address from First Lady and New York Senator-elect Hillary Clinton. Other distinguished speakers who have addressed the group include Richard Holbrooke, U.S. representative to the United Nations, Norma Cantu, assistant secretary for civil rights and two members of Congress. “This is a conference about hope,” Wiesel said in a written statement. “It is about the future. It is about the kind of world and country we would like our children to inherit.” The end of the conference today marks the conclusion of a productive seminar, according to Wiesel. “Never has something like this been so well-organized and devoted,” he said.

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