The 'Gen X' challengeTwo College students convene world leaders, peers, to tackle issues of modern democracy
By Jennifer Vanasco
Some students of politics look for common ground between political parties. Renato Mariotti and Rohit Khanna are looking for common ground between generations.
Mariotti and Khanna, both College seniors, are the organizers of "The Challenge of Modern Democracy," a three-day conference to be held from Thursday, April 9, through Saturday, April 11, that is drawing scholars, former heads of state, religious leaders and scientists from all over the world -- including former Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, former Canadian prime minister Kim Campbell, CNN principal anchor Bernard Shaw, Cardinal Francis George and Renato Ruggiero, director of the World Trade Organization, among many others.
The students spent three years fundraising, contacting world leaders, ironing out details and sparking the interest of faculty members and other students. They were aided in this effort by Martha Nussbaum, the Ernst Freund Professor in the Law School.
"We wanted to prove that people of our generation care about the most pressing problems confronting modern democracies," Khanna said. "This is our chance to prove that many of the stereotypes surrounding Generation X are false. Students do have interesting ideas about public policy questions. America need not worry about the quality of its future leaders."
More than 100 students from universities around the world -- including Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, Moscow State, Brown and 20 others -- have been chosen through a rigorous selection process to attend the conference and participate in the discussion sessions.
"It's a 21st-century conference," Mariotti said. "Live video of the entire conference will be broadcast via the World Wide Web. Questions can be submitted to participants via our website, and panelists will respond during the question-and-answer period. People can access the website directly or though links at numerous sites." The conference website is at moderndemocracy.com.
The students attending the conference will listen to more than 50 panelists from around the world as they debate free trade, information technology, the environment, health care, religion and education, and then can jump in with their responses during the discussion period.
The conference will be held in Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. Registration is free for students, or $50 a day for general admission.
"The Challenge of Modern Democracy" is sponsored in part by the MacArthur Foundation, the Spencer Foundation and United Airlines.