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We the Young People

Highlighting the impact of young voters and exploring the change they want to see from the new U.S. presidential administration. The special features teen voices and leading journalists covering topics such as youth activism, civics, and misinformation. WE THE YOUNG PEOPLE is designed to connect with new audiences and deepen conversations about the most pressing issues in the country.

AIRED: January 20, 2021 | 0:26:45
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TRANSCRIPT

♪

WOMAN: More Americans voted in the 2020 election

than ever before.

BOY: But the aftermath magnified how deeply divided

our country is.

GIRL: Our democracy is being severely tested.

MAN: Stormed the Capitol building,

they are marching through now.

WOMAN 2: We are seeing the very real and deadly

consequences of misinformation.

WOMAN 3: And distressing our institutions.

WOMAN: We are learning that we can't take our

democracy for granted.

MAN 2: Despite the violence,

our government continues to do its work.

MOORE-ROSS: And now we want to see our country heal.

WOMAN 5: I voted because people I care about

are in danger.

MAN 3: I voted because I wanted to make a better future

for the next generation and my children.

WOMAN 6: As we continue to confront the pandemic,

racial injustice and economic crisis,

we must remember what is important to us.

MOORE-ROSS: We the people.

GROUP: We the young people...

BOY: Of the United States...

WOMAN 3: Want a better future together.

NAWAZ: Hi everyone and welcome to,

"We the Young People"

I'm your host, Amna Nawaz,

Senior Correspondent for the "PBS NewsHour".

Now, the inauguration of Joe Biden as the next

president of the United States marks the

start of a new four year term and the peaceful

transfer of power from one president to the next

is an American democratic tradition that's been

upheld since the 1700's.

But this has been a transition like none other.

As congress met to certify the election results,

a pro-Trump rally turned into an assault on the

US Capitol building;

that's something that hasn't happened in

modern American History.

Multiple crisis and this contentious election have

taken a toll on America's image in the world,

not to mention, our faith and our trust

in democratic institutions.

Now many of you voted for the first time in 2020,

we're going to talk about how young people are working

to build a stronger democracy.

You're going to hear from my good friend,

and colleague Yamiche Alcindor,

our White House correspondent,

you'll also hear from young elected officials

about why they entered public service.

We'll learn more about the consequences of misinformation

and talk with youth activists about what they expect from

the next administration.

This program was created by the team at Student Reporting Labs,

that's a youth media program from the NewsHour that

empowers students across the country to produce unique,

youth focused, journalism.

Alright, let's get it started.

Now, Yamiche recently hosted a conversation about the

historic nature of America's first female Vice President

with three of our Gwen Ifill fellows.

This fellowship was created to help honor the legacy

of Gwen Ifill,

a trailblazing journalist who co-anchored the

NewsHour before her death in 2016.

ALCINDOR: Good to talk to all of you.

Tell me where you're joining us from and what

you all are up to.

EZEJI: I'm a recent graduate from the

University of North Texas where I studied Broadcast Journalism

and Yamiche, I've always looked up to you so much.

So, this is really such a privilege to be able

to talk to you.

MOORE-ROSS: I'm Jaylah, I'm in Bowie Maryland.

I'm currently a production assistant with

Student Reporting Labs.

ABRERA: I'm Angeline and I'm from Houston, Texas

and I'm a student at the University of Houston

studying Media Production.

ALCINDOR: Mercedes, you talked about being excited

to talk to me.

Um we all, of course, have women that we look up to.

Um, talk to me a little bit about representation

and role models.

Vice President Elect, Harris said in her

post-election address...

HARRIS: While I may be the first woman in this office,

I will not be the last.

ALCINDOR: What does it mean to all of you to have a

woman be elected for the first time,

Vice President of the United States?

ABRERA: It's just crazy how it's taken this long to get

here and it's almost as if she's, kind of,

representing the rest of us that live here to say,

"Hey, we live here too, we can have authority."

MOORE-ROSS: It just felt like another barrier

that was put in place to hold us back got knocked down.

EZEJI: I think about the younger generations.

So, for them to see something like that.

That's just so positive and just be, like,

"Oh, I look like her too."

Or, "Oh, my mom looks like her."

And feel like they can also just accomplish things

and good things are happening in the world.

I really find that, just, really beautiful.

ALCINDOR: How does your background resonate

with all of you, especially given the fact

that we are, of course,

all women of color sitting here right now?

MOORE-ROSS: As a person of color, like,

I've grown up with blacks siblings, black aunts,

black uncles, a black mom, a black dad and I think Kamala

with that perspective can speak to a lot of the issues

that people like me face in America.

ABRERA: I've seen a lot of comments where people say,

"Oh, she's not actually black, she's not actually Indian."

I've always been super-conflicted.

Like, I know I'm American, but, what's the definition of

being a true American?

Or, am I even really Filipino because I live here?

And that's always been an internal struggle for me.

EZEJI: You don't have to be one type of black, in a way.

Like, you can be made up of several ethnicities

and still be black.

And I was glad to see how Kamala really handled it.

She was just, like, "This is who I am, this is my identity.

If you don't like it, oh well.

I'm black, you can try to tell me I'm not but

I know who I am" and I really appreciated that.

ALCINDOR: When you think of your life,

who are you looking up to,

who have you looked up to in the past?

ABRERA: Growing up I honestly never really had women of

color that I could look up to.

I guess just besides my mom.

EZEJI: Of course my mother and the women around me.

Of course, Gwen Ifill.

She was one person I really looked up to because I would

just watch her and just be like,

"I could do that." And that's, honestly,

how I got into journalism in the first place.

ALCINDOR: I have to say, the theme of this conversation

seems to be moms.

My biggest inspiration is definitely my mother.

She immigrated here from Haiti in the 1970's,

went on to get her PhD.

Seeing her do her job as a single mother raising my

brother and me in Miami, um, it was just inspiring

to see her.

She was someone who I felt like, just,

powered through life and when I used to,

when I still hit roadblocks I think, well, my mom did this.

What do you think your generation is facing that,

maybe other women didn't or maybe you're facing some of

the same things other women are in past generations faced?

ABRERA: For me, I just had a few instances where I would be

doing something in this field, like a film project or

something like that.

And just a few people have told me,

"Oh, it's great to see people or women like you

doing stuff like this and it was never a bad thing.

I guess I just never really realized why that was

important or what, like, the big deal was.

EZEJI: I actually had this conversation

a lot with my mom.

She always tells me, she's like,

"Your generation is just so different from mine."

Because she immigrated here in,

I believe the early 80's, from Nigeria, so she's like,

"Certain things that you just feel free to

say and do I didn't."

ALCINDOR: Talk to me a little bit about this administration.

What, beyond representation,

do you hope Vice President Harris

and this administration will accomplish?

ABRERA: I just hope that this new administration will bring

back the climate conversation.

EZEJI: As someone who, literally,

just graduated into a pandemic in December 2019,

I would love to see what this administration will do for the

student loan crisis in America because so many Americans are

not financially free and that just is, like,

shackles on them.

MOORE-ROSS: I also just hope that they keep the promises

that they promised to the black community and the

community of color.

ALCINDOR: I get, a lot of times, people asking me,

"What advice would you give to young women who want to get

into the media, what advice would you give to them?"

The biggest advice I can give you is to just do the work and

to find people who believe in you.

For the people who don't believe in you,

leave them aside.

Go find mentors, go find editors,

go find producers who see what you see in yourself who are

confident in the fact that you can continue to grow.

Yes, you're gonna make mistakes.

I've made mistakes.

I've had to get corrections in the "New York Times",

I've had to do over stand ups 20 times cause I

couldn't get the teleprompter right.

You will make mistakes,

just like everyone makes mistakes,

but know that if you press forward,

if you keep your eye on the prize you can get that and I

will tell you, I'm someone who was told,

"Maybe you're not pretty enough to be on TV,

maybe you're not skinny enough to be on TV,

maybe you should straighten your hair."

I didn't take any of that, luckily,

my mother was there to say you are beautiful,

you're gonna go exactly the way you are.

Make sure you have a fundamental core and remember

who you are, so thank you so much ladies for talking,

thank you so much for sharing this space with me.

I'm so excited to see all of you succeed,

that we could call you part of the PBS family.

Thank you so much.

MOORE-ROSS: Thank you so much.

EZEJI: Thank you. ABRERA: Thank you.

PRAKASH: Dear Mr. President and Madam Vice President,

education is so fundamental to the success

of the individuals,

the community and the country as a whole.

But unfortunately, not all kids are getting the academic

opportunities and resources that they need

to be successful.

I've seen too many of my peers falling behind because of

their socio-economic backgrounds or even

their mental health.

And it's not fair and I think it's just because of the way

that-that the education system is structured.

I hope this is as important of an issue to you as

it is to me.

KAPOLKA: As a result of the events that have happened,

how do you think America will be different going forward?

RISSER: I would like to hope that the scenes of angry

Americans storming one of our nations sacred buildings is

enough to inspire changes.

KAPOLKA: What do you hope that students can take away from

seeing this experience happen in our own country?

RISSER: Don't take democracy for granted and honestly I

think about my, I think about my life.

I think I've taken democracy for granted.

I've come to expect that there are certain lines

that you wouldn't cross.

KAPOLKA: I agree with that.

It's also, just, really crazy.

You would always, like,

other countries would be that.

You know, America, like, wow.

Like, that's what we want to be like or that's what we look

up to, but if we were looking in on what's happening right

now to us we would want to go in and help.

SOUTHWICK: We are facing police brutality and systemic

racism in this county.

Just in the past year there's been several protests,

several riots happen and that really effects my day to day

life as a black person I'm wondering if I'm gonna be ok.

At the end of the day, every day I go out if I'm gonna be

alright, if something's going to happen to me and I would

really like to ask you guys what you can do in

your power to change that.

NAWAZ: What drives individuals to public service in this

era of polarized politics and diminishing faith

in institutions?

Sofia Verani of Oakland Technical High School in

California interviewed three young elected officials who

won their first elections in November.

VERANI: 19-year-old Tony LaBranche is an incoming member

of the New Hampshire State House of Representatives.

His interest in public service began in the hospital

when he was 10.

LABRANCHE: I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.

The hospital bill was in the $400,000 range.

My family went into debt and we struggled for a while.

Seeing how unjust and exploitive the American health

care system is has driven me to be a public servant and why

I wanted to run for office.

VERANI: LaBranche's first step into political life was when

he ran for school board to help fix local schools.

LABRANCHE: We have leaky ceilings,

most classrooms do not have heating in the Winter.

I lost by about 245 votes.

VERANI: LaBranche had better luck in November 2020 when he

was elected as one of three Democrats in Amherst to win a

seat in the state legislature.

Do you think there's pressure,

being a young person in politics?

Because I feel like there's always been that, kind of,

like, message of, like,

"Oh, the next generation is gonna fix

all of America's problems."

LABRANCHE: I think that more people of my generation should

be running for office.

We actually need to be participating in the political

process if we really do want to solve the issues.

VERANI: Is it weird for people to call you

Representative Tony LaBranche?

LABRANCHE: It's still such a shock to me that

I was even elected.

I personally prefer being called Tony, but, um,

it's an honor to be a representative.

VERANI: 28-year-old Republican,

Kristen O'Shea is the youngest woman ever elected

to the Kansas State Senate.

How do you think your parents church and volunteering

work inspired you to run for office?

O'SHEA: I think it was a way of life.

On weekends, bring branches to the Powell House site and with

mom we would go to Quilters with the Little Ladies and tie

quilts for Lutheran World Relief,

but also helping make sure, you know,

the treasury budgets were working.

VERANI: Why did the COVID-19 pandemic make you

want to run for office?

O'SHEA: The shutdowns really drastically effected small

business negatively.

The inconsistencies, between a big business and

a small business, uh, weren't, weren't great.

Every time I would see the pictures of an elderly person

behind a screen talking to their loved ones cause they

couldn't go in a nursing home...

My heart would just break.

I stayed out of politics, but I think if good people aren't

running for office, making those decisions that affect

everyone's lives then who is?

VERANI: Do you have a message for young women looking to go

into public service?

O'SHEA: Women tend to think we have to know

everything before we can take the step to do it.

All the little steps throughout my life of being

involved and being in leadership all leads up

to public service.

You're ready for it even when you don't think you are.

VERANI: 26 year old Democrat Abraham Aiyash won a seat in

the Michigan House of Representatives.

AIYASH: I'm in this position um,

unfortunately because my state representative and political

mentor Isaac Robinson passed away in late March

from suspected COVID.

First time I met him, when I was just 13 working

on the Barack Obama campaign, he says, you know,

"I'm your Jewish Irish Catholic brother from the hood."

I was reinspired by the 2016 election and saw

"Call to Service" especially after my um,

my uncle was killed by an air strike in,

in Yemen just days before the initial travel ban was signed.

That sort of reminded me that it wasn't enough to simply

have the right values but there was a need to step in

and fight and engage in that process.

As a child of immigrants, as a Muslim,

as someone who grew up in an intersectional community that

was largely black and brown and working class and poor

that I bring that lens into the legislature.

They say Isaac had big shoes to fill,

quite literally he was a size 14, uh,

but I'm about a size 11 so I, I hope I can come close to

continuing the fight.

SMITH: Hey Ashanti how are you doin'?

CARR: Hi, I'm doin' good, how are you Mr. Smith?

SMITH: Ashanti, now that you're an official voter and

part of the democratic process,

how do you foresee the events that have taken place

over the past year will effect our future as

a democratic society?

CARR: I mean I'm really used to all of the negativity.

I was born a year after 9/11 and it seemed like since then

everything's been going downhill with the viruses and

the wars and all of the conflict,

so hopefully in the future it will be less

conflict and more hope.

Do you think our democracy is pretty strong?

SMITH: At the moment, not at all.

Many of us have, we're caught up in the reality TV of

it all or the counter-culture of it all,

forgetting that there are democratic norms,

such as bowing out when you lose an election and allowing

the next person to secede.

Um, obviously, you are part of our future leaders and the

fact that you are so involved and engaged gives me hope that

democracy will be restored in the future and I can't wait to

see what you and your peers do to better our country.

NAWAZ: Misinformation and disinformation continue to

have a massive impact here in America.

We partnered with MediaWise, a media literacy program from

Pointer to learn what you can do to stop it.

And full disclosure, I am an ambassador with the program.

Now Bridgette Adu-Wadier a Student's Reporting Labs fellow

and former teen fact checker with MediaWise,

talked with a misinformation expert to help us understand

the scope of the problem.

You're then gonna hear from Heaven Taylor-Wynn,

a multimedia reporter from MediaWise who spoke with two

other MediaWise teen fact checkers about how they

managed to keep their own social

media experience, healthy.

ADU-WADIER: I have with me Dr. Jevin West,

who teaches at the University of Washington and

he's been doing a lot of research about

misinformation and disinformation.

WEST: Thanks for having me, Bridgette.

ADU-WADIER: As a teen fact checker,

I sometimes get really worried about what might happen if we

don't address this problem of misinformation.

WEST: It's difficult to solve a pandemic,

it's difficult to solve problems of planetary health

and economic health and societal health if we can't

get the information right.

ADU-WADIER: What keeps you up at night?

WEST: That the younger generation just starts to lose

trust in everything.

If you look at the many studies and surveys that are

done every single year around trust,

of different institutions like journalism, government,

military, it's going down across the board.

Our democracy depends on some level of trust in those

institutions and each other and if they don't trust

anything, that's what scares me the most.

It's also the goal of a lot of those organizations and

bad actors that are pushing disinformation campaigns.

ADU-WADIER: How can we get through to people who have

completely lost faith or have really low trust in

institutions and facts, science?

WEST: Bring more empathy into these conversations to

understand when someone is concerned,

let's say it is about vaccinations,

and to talk to them like a human and to talk to them and

ask them questions

about where they get their information and talk to them

about the difficulty of, of getting to truth but that you

can get to truth, you know.

There are some people who think the world could be

destroyed by things like nuclear weapons, of course,

it could and other things, but it also could be destroyed

even by social media too.

So um, we gotta take that serious as well.

ADU-WAIDER: Well thank you so much Jevin.

WEST: Thank you Bridgette.

TAYLOR-WYNN: Hi everyone, I'm Heaven Taylor-Wynn and

I'm a multi-media reporter for MediaWise

and I'm so happy to be joined today by two

of our teen fact checkers,

Loren and Angie.

They've contributed countless hours to helping us debunk

more than 400 claims in the past two years.

Loren and Angie, welcome!

Just to kick things off, I want to hear about your

experiences as teen fact checker.

LI: Um first I was thinking of misinformation as

like those really big, like propaganda type posters,

but it turns out,

that there's misinformation everywhere.

It's in your Facebook feed, in your Instagram stories.

And the thing about misinformation is that it

isn't intentional.

Usually people have good intentions of sharing

information to help inform other people,

but sometimes things don't quite go the way

that they expected.

TAYLOR-WYNN: I think you hit it right on the head

and that a lot of times the misinformation is

unintentional, but at the same time you know,

disinformation is absolutely intentional.

What about you Loren?

MIRANDA: I think a lot of people my age definitely see

it as a little weird that I'm a fact checker when

I'm so young, it's not a typical you know,

hobby that teenagers have,

but I think it's really important when

you're sharing information on your personal social media

because even, even if you don't have a

million followers, even if you just have a few hundred,

you're an influencer and I think it's important that

every teen is a fact checker.

TAYLOR-WYNN: Alright, so we saw the consequences of

misinformation in real life when a group of protestors who

believed in the baseless claims that President Trump

had won the election, stormed the US Capitol.

What advice would you have for people who may be

victims of this kind of misinformation?

LI: So I think the big thing is to realize that

it's not your fault.

With the way that social media is set up,

where it rewards things that are really highly emotional or

really highly argumentative or the echo chambers that also

come along with that and the fact that misinformation

usually isn't spread on purpose.

MIRANDA: People can turn to violence and hurting others

just because they saw something that wasn't true

that, was so easily preventable and I think that

if we don't fix this soon then,

things like this are going to keep happening.

LI: Even over the past election season,

with the way that the misinformation has been

spreading about like political candidates or election results

or even the vote-in, the mail-in ballots,

the very underpinnings of our democracy and our society may

start coming a part unless we fix the issue of misinformation.

TAYLOR-WYNN: Well thank you both so much for sitting down

and talking with me,

I really enjoyed it and we don't get to have these

conversations so often, so thank you so much.

ECKHART: Dear Mr. President and Madame Vice President.

My hope for my community and this country is

that we stand more united than when you

began your presidency.

JONES: I hope to see your progressive plan in

combating climate change.

JOHNSON: I think it would be nice of you to help

low-income families with COVID protection.

Doing things like opening up little health centers in

low-income areas so people can get the help they need.

PHILLIPS: To continue to bring money back to middle class

families, continue to rise the poor out of unemployment and

back into jobs in our country.

LOPEZ: I put my faith in you to end systemic racism and

tear down all the barriers that come with it.

NAWAZ: Finally tonight I want you to hear from

some very special guests,

we've got some young activists with us who

are on the front lines of civic engagement.

Each of them is working in their own way on the issues

that matter most to them.

Change as we all know it's a process right,

it happens in a lot of different ways,

so how do you make that change?

LOGAN: When I started this work um,

I didn't really know how to make change.

But I think after, being in this work I think you look at

the wisdom of our elders and young people's energies

and you can see that tangible change can be made.

Change for me is organizing on the grounds and really

educating other young people.

And I think there is a common notion that we have

to give a voice to the voiceless,

when in reality everyone has a voice,

everyone has a story.

NAWAZ: At the same time though Alliyah I hear what you're

saying and I want Benji to pick up where you left off

because organizing and trying to get people out

into the streets or going to the halls of power,

you can't exactly do that during a pandemic, right?

You've had to change and shift some of your tactics,

so, tell me a little bit about that.

How do you continue to practice and see forge your

advocacy safely during a pandemic?

BACKER: Well look I think, first of all,

the fact that so many young people turned out for the 2020

election is proof that we were still advocating and

making action during the pandemic.

I actually think that one best things about the pandemic is,

is the awareness that we have now as young people that we

can take that activism from being in the streets and turn

that into action as well, vote, write you legislator,

you know contact them via email or phone

or on social media, put the pressure on!

Because, just because there's a pandemic,

doesn't mean that these issues go away or that

they slow down.

NAWAZ: What role do you see for young conservatives for

the next four years?

BACKER: Well look, there is an obvious reboot that

needs to happen within the conservative movement

and there are important issues that need to be solved

with conservatives being at the table.

One of those is the issue that I care about most at the

American Conservation Coalition and

that's the environment.

All Americans care about the environment and conservatives

need to be part of those conversations so we

can get things done.

But as it pertains to the broader conservative movement

the time for a new Republican party,

a new conservative movement is right now and it's really

important for the conservative movement to turn back to a

movement of markets and limited government like it

used to be but also a movement that stands up for all people

regardless of their background or political affiliation

or racial ethnicity.

NAWAZ: What advice do you have for anyone out there who wants

to get involved, who wants to be on the front lines with you

but may feel discouraged in this moment?

GONZALES: To those young people I would definitely say,

look to your community.

There are people on the ground in your

community doing amazing work.

They are the ones that are filling your community fridges,

they are the ones who are organizing the marches.

Look for those folks, they will guide you and mentor you

to where you need to be and to not be afraid

to share what you believe in.

I think young people are incredibly imaginative and so

you are essential in these spaces and activism doesn't

look one way.

NAWAZ: Well you guys are just incredible.

Seriously this is such an inspiring conversation

I am in awe of you and everything that you do.

I just want to bottle all this up and take

a sip from it every day,

thank you, Benji, Alliyah and Andrea for being here,

for the work that you do,

I am so grateful and I'm so,

so happy I got to talk to you tonight.

Thank you again to everybody for joining us

again I'm Amna Nawaz from the "PBS NewsHour"

and this is where I leave you.

Good night, stay safe.

(music plays through credits).

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