Not on my watch

February 13th, 2007 by bebersghost

With IC coming up, I suppose it’s not surprising that BBYO members and alumni are again turning their attention to the mysterious evolution of BBYO policy and the role of youth leadership (or lack thereof) in discussing it ahead of implementation.

What is surprising is where the discussion has moved to – it seems to have made its way to Facebook where a remarkable 80+ members from across the country have joined in a single day.

Frankly, I don’t know what would annoy BBYO staff more at this point – the fact that members and alumni are discussing policy issues ahead of IC, or the fact that they are using Facebook to do so instead of B-Linked.

Regardless, I thank the member who pointed me to the group. It makes for interesting reading. Unsurprisingly, I agree with some of the posts and disagree with others – but I am delighted to see the passion that members have brought to the discussion regardless of their perspectives.

In fact, there is only one viewpoint that has been expressed there (and earlier on B-Linked and elsewhere) that I have and will continue to speak out against – the idea that teens should not be discussing these issues. This view has been expressed many different ways: that teens should be out having fun and not worrying about policy, that the rules will be broken anyway so they aren’t worth discussing, that members can’t make a difference so why bother, that the way to address this is with private phone calls to the RAG rather than open discussion, etc. If BBYO is to remain a youth led organization, the youth must lead – and that doesn’t just mean electing leaders and sitting back and doing nothing. Leadership means engagement at all levels, from the newest prospective to graduating seniors (and maybe even a willingness to listen to alumni and other stakeholders and learn from their experience as well).

My greatest disappointment is that the very people who should be encouraging open discussion and debate – the staff at all levels, and the youth leadership at all levels, has more often than not tried to placate, intimidate and discourage this kind of discussion. Sadly, it’s not surprising considering the state of political discourse in our country today.

Fortunately, there is someone who discusses this problem more eloquently than I ever could. I invite everyone to watch Barak Obama announcing his candidacy for president.

His challenge (towards the end of the speech) to all citizens to become part of the national discourse is as relevant to leadership in BBYO as it is to the national stage.

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