2015 Future 5 Statements
On Capitol Forum Day, students are asked to consider four very different futures for the United States and weigh the pros and cons of each one. Then, after Capitol Forum Day is over, students write their own “Future Five” statements. These statements allow students to synthesize elements from the other futures and consider how best to balance the conflicting concerns they raise. “Future Five” statements are often framed as letters to elected officials.
The following are summaries of each of the four futures that students work with on Capitol Forum Day and use to frame their “Future Five” statements. These summaries are courtesy of the United States’ Role in a Changing World curriculum from the Choices for the 21st Century Program at Brown University.
Future 1: Lead the World to Democracy
The United States is the most powerful nation in the world. The world depends on us to maintain peace and order and to support liberal democratic principles. Today’s international system was built around American ideals and power. Neither collective security nor the United Nations can be counted on to deal with the threats to this system. We must devote the necessary resources to build an international moral order and a vigorous international economy grounded in American political and economic principles and we must protect this international system from any threats, even if pressuring other governments to adopt American democratic principles may spark international criticism that the United States is ushering in a “Pax Americana.”
Future 2: Protect U.S. Global Interests
We live in a dangerously unstable world. U.S. foreign policy must strive for order and security. International terrorism, chaos in the Middle East, rising poverty in the developing world, and global economic competition have created an international minefield for U.S. leaders. We need to focus our energies on protecting our own security, cultivating our key trade relationships, ensuring our access to crucial raw materials, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to unfriendly nations or to terrorist networks. We must be selective in our involvement in international affairs and be prepared to protect ourselves– at home and abroad– against any threats to our security and prosperity, even if this policy may breed resentment and lead to an angry backlash against us.
Future 3: Build a More Cooperative World
We live today in an interdependent and interconnected world. We cannot stand alone. National boundaries can no longer halt the spread of AIDS, international drug trafficking, terrorism, and other global scourges. We must take the initiative to bring the nations of the world together and play a leadership role in strengthening the UN’s role in international security and responding to other global problems such as environmental pollution, financial crises, refugees, and AIDS. We must be willing to give up a portion of our independent authority, or sovereignty, to the UN and offer our military, intelligence, and economic support to UN-led initiatives, even if this may limit our ability to use military force unilaterally outside of North America.
Future 4: Protect the U.S. Homeland
The attacks of September 11, 2001 have made us feel a vulnerability not felt in more than fifty years. We have spent hundreds of billions of dollars a year defending our allies in western Europe and East Asia and distributed tens of billions more in foreign aid to countries throughout the developing world. These high-profile foreign policy programs have only bred resentment against us and made us enemies. It is time to sharply scale back our foreign involvement and turn our attention to the real threats facing Americans: a sagging economy, decaying schools, a shaky health care system, and inadequate resources to protect against terrorism, even if this may upset the worldwide balance of power and cause insecure countries to seek nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
The following are “Future Five” statements from students at our 2015 Capitol Forum schools.
West Holt High School
Class: Modern Problems
Teacher: Chris Nemetz
1. The Guardians Of Democracy
My Future Five would focus more on the domestic issues of our nation. We have many issues in our own nation, including plenty of poverty and crime of our own. We need to focus more on improving our situation and the situation of our people. We also need to build up our relationships with other powerful countries around the world. In order for us to try and stay out of war, we need to have a close relationship with the global powers, such as Russia and China. Along with our relationships of powerful nations, we also need to carefully look at our relationships with developing or non-democratic nations. These nations are possibly the most threatening, because they are often the unstable nations. We need to be able to help these countries develop, but without causing conflict with other nations while doing it.
When it comes to The Guardians of Democracy’s foreign policy, much of our resources would go into helping other nations develop. By helping nations develop, we in turn have more of an input when they are establishing a set government. We can then lead them in the right direction towards democracy, which will improve the living conditions for their people. Building up these nations also helps our relations with these countries, which could eventually end up being very beneficial for us in the future. As for the people living in our own country, The Guardians of Democracy would also improve the lives of Americans because of the strong focus on domestic policy. My Future Five would work to reform the health care and welfare systems to where it is more difficult for them to be abused.
Arguments against The Guardians of Democracy could potential be that as of now; this Future is now actively working to solve the national debt issue. The process of reforming the health care and welfare systems will no doubt be a costly one, but after it is done, it should start to cut back on our national debt. Another downside to My Future Five is our resources may get spread out because we are trying to do so much both at home, and in other countries. This may cause us to not be able to do as much as we would like to in each area.
The positive side to The Guardians of Democracy is it will greatly increase the standard of living for people in the United States, as well as people in developing countries. It would also cause our nation to be safer because we would have better relations with other countries around the world. By helping the developing nations, more people are apt to have a positive view of the United States, and in turn prevent other attacks against us.
While The Guardians of Democracy does not solve every issue America has right now, it does address the most important issues right now. My Future Five would get our country back on track and work to bring back our American pride.
2. Creating a Democratic world, Reconstructing the Military force, and Aiding Developing Countries
The four futures created for our country all have positives and negatives. They each have really good ideas, but with those there are issues. My goal in creating a fifth future is to limit the issues found in the other futures for our country. The three major points I want to focus on are creating a democratic world, reconstructing the military force, and aiding developing countries.
The major issue with the world is that there are so many different styles of government that no one can agree on problems similar to all people. If we helped developing countries form positive governments, we could create a world that is based upon similar ideals. Forming a democratic world is the most important step in improving the lives of everyone. With this idea, I believe the UN should have the most control, as they could enforce the democratic ideals. The problem would be getting more UN representatives set on the ideas of democratic nations. This world would be set up a lot like the United States government. The UN would be like our federal government, while separate countries would be like our states where they have a certain amount of control on things, but the UN makes the major decisions. While helping countries become democratic, we could show them the ins and outs of a positive government. We could use a teacher role to help foster more democratic nations.
As teachers helping develop countries more like the United States, we also need to help teach them in other aspects. Countries need to be informed on technology developments as well as governmental if we truly want them to gear to be more like us.
As we work to develop a democratic world, we will make enemies. Under my future, the United States would have to have a strong military to counter the effort of those who oppose the United States’ ideals. The point brings in the idea of a police officer. However, I would like to only have military force in countries that threaten our home country. I believe using military force where there is only speculation of disagreements just fuels the fire of the enemies more. It is more important to have military force built up in our homelands, than in other parts of the world. Keeping the military force largely in the U.S. would better protect our citizens. So although I would like to use force like a police officer might, I only want to use this as an option when all else fails.
My third main point in developing a fifth future would deal with building a cooperative world. This point could be my relief worker view. In order to gain a more stable world, we need to help by sending aid to third world countries. If we spend the money on them now, they may be able to return the favor down the road. More developed countries would mean more allies for the United States. Not only that, but stable governments are more likely to be able to help other undeveloped countries. Hopefully if we start helping countries develop, they will pay it forward causing a domino effect. This would speed up the process of developing nations into democratic countries. It may not help the United States’ debt issue right now, but down the road we would hopefully reap the benefits.
Taking on the relief worker role also applies to our homeland. If we want to aid other countries, we also have to make that apply to people that come into our country from other parts of the world. In my ideal society, we would be more accepting of immigrants and make the process of legalization easier. Yes, critics may say this leaves an open door for terrorists, but you could just as easily have people who are native residents of your country attack as immigrants of other nations.
Obviously no plan is perfect and my plan has faults of its own. There is no way to create a success utopian society, but hopefully my plan directs the world into a more positive light. By creating a democratic world, hopefully it would lead to an end of major wars. Changing the way our military force works and not using it as harshly could give us a more positive view in the eyes of other countries. Finally, giving aid to developing countries will create a more stable world. In my plan, I would like to use a combination of a teacher role, police officer, and a relief worker.
3. Protect This Home
The next generation of American government needs to focus more on domestic issues and then provide relief to developing countries. These are the ideals of my Future Five titled Protect this Home. This future would first focus on domestic policy and fixing problems at home. This will benefit citizens and provide a backing for the government as they pursue following objectives. After fixing and strengthening the home front, the American government could then increase their activity in helping to teach, to develop, and to supply relief to countries in need.
As in many countries, the actions of their government don’t agree with every resident in the land. The first concept that would be addressed is the poverty of American citizens. In recent years, a recession has kept people on their toes when dealing or even thinking of governmental action. A program would address those in poverty across the states. Another concept that would be addressed is a piggyback of poverty called public education. In order to move forward in the world as a major power, we need to invest in those that will represent us in good lights. America has an average system of education for its younger generation of leaders. Many European countries have systems that feature free education. A downside of their policy is a test defines your future. If the United States could take some ideas to revise their higher education systems, more students may deliberate furthering education past high school. With the advancement of education improving poverty, this would in return strengthen the domestic economy. More money would be put in to the system initially, but the return would then increase circulating money that will support the common citizen. This would also increase the amount of taxes brought in by the United States and could help decrease the deficit of national debt. The national debt is a concern of Americans and a decrease will relieve some of the stress on the people and governing bodies.
After domestic issues are reviewed, America can then pursue a role as a relief worker in international affairs. Providing medicine, education, and better living conditions for those affected by an unstable government or living in a developing country. A stronger, more stable country would have more resources to help others. This plan doesn’t involve the destruction of people in a country rather help build and improve the lives of people.
In the next ten years, the United States should pull military out of the wars and focus on domestic affairs. A strong nation can only help others if they are strong themselves. This could possibly damage relations with foreign countries and their views of Americans.
Supporters of the future would agree that America could only help when they are strong and capable as a whole country. They would also agree that relieving countries in distraught will bring new alliances and trade. The opposing side would argue that this plan displays America as selfish and that will not make foreign problems vanish. Those that oppose may also argue that bringing troops home out of foreign war will allow for domestic attacks to become more un predictable.
Overall, Future Five: Protect This Home holds the interest of its inhabitants as a number one priority. Decreasing poverty, decreasing national debt, stimulating domestic economy, and relieving countries that need help are the problems that the United States is now facing. This future will address and find solutions for these situations.
4. The Health, Home, and Ties Future
The four futures all have some good ideas, but I feel that not just one of them will fix the problems that the United States is facing in the world today. If you take some pieces from the current proposed four and add some new ideas, I think we can come up with a solution. A couple of the biggest problems the United States faces are the healthcare system and the national debt.
The healthcare system in the United States is a major issue, because there are some people that have to spend thousands of dollars on insurance and then if they have an accident they may still be drowning in medical bills. Medical bills are one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States. I strongly believe that it is important for the United States to focus on more preventative care and less on finding things out when it is to late. There are many hard working individuals in America that cannot afford insurance so they will not go to the doctor. Once they do finally decide to go to the doctor the problem is more then what they can afford. If the United States were to offer free yearly physicals for every individual, it would be easier for doctors to catch illnesses before they become extremely serious. If it is treated early the treatment will not be as expensive hopefully.
The United States should take pieces from each of the future four that have already been proposed. From future 4 they should take the fact that they should not spend as much money outside of the United States. The United States has a huge national debt and we are just going further into the whole and not gaining any closer. If the United States does not give out as much foreign aid to other countries that we can not really benefit from we will be keeping more money inside our borders and hopefully can get read of some of our national debt. It is important that we build relationship with other counties and have easy trading routes with other counties as in future 3. In future 3 it is important for that the United States works with the other countries that are involved in the United Nations. If the United States works with other countries they can help maintain peace and help eliminate war. In future 2 it talks about the United States protecting themselves. There are many terrorists in the world and the United States has their hands in many things so they have created many enemies. They must be able to defend and protect themselves against terrorists.
The United States has to better themselves and the other countries that are involved in. I think that the future I have designed that will best suit the United States involves taking care of things inside our borders such as healthcare and our national debt. We also have to take care of things outside of our borders such as maintaining peace and being involved in the decisions the United Nations make. If the United States works on improving our healthcare system the people will be happier and will be able to afford many different items, which will also stimulate our economy. By spending less in foreign aid, but still keeping our allies close we will have good relationships with countries that have money that can benefit the United States. There might be some countries that are mad at the United States if they cut off their foreign aid. If we do not benefit from other countries then why would we waste our money to try and improve countries?
The Health, Home, and Ties Future can help the United States lessen their national debt, improve their healthcare system, and still maintain ties with countries that we can benefit from and they will also benefit from us. By doing these things I think the United States will greatly improve and the people of the United States will be happier.
Sterling High School
The five categories we discussed at Capitol Forum have a very direct effect on America and it’s thriving democracy. The trade policies we could create could help us to establish better ties with nations we may not necessarily be on best terms with, which could help to reduce tensions. This could also lead to us gaining more allies. Immigration was another issue that was examined and I believe the United States should regulate the flow of immigrants. We can accomplish this by building up the country’s economy that the immigrants have come from, so that they don’t have a desire to migrate. I believe this would have a large impact on not only the large influx of immigrants into the United States, but in other first-world countries as well, such as those in Europe. Globally, our environment has taken a hit, especially with the rise in pollution emissions and the ever-changing climate that is leading to ice caps melting. So as a major force in the modern world, we should invest more time and resources into the causes and effects of global warming. We, along with the other countries of the world, also have the right to protect ourselves. One way we do this today is by having nuclear warheads at our use, if needed. However, so do some of the economically unstable nations who believe they can use them when they feel it is “necessary”, even if it is without just cause. The United States, as one of the main members of the United Nations, should set limits on how many each country should be allowed to have at one time. Unfortunately, these nuclear warheads sometimes fall into the hands of the extreme terroristic groups. In order to prevent this, we need to keep a closer eye on them. Perhaps the biggest threat we face today are the terrorists that can influence and infiltrate our own U.S. citizens for their evil purposes. We need to continuously expose the general public to the demographic groups at risk. Those groups are primarily young people who want to follow and believe in something. This is done so easily by the social media and the internet. We are inviting the terrorists, unbenounced to us, within our homes. One way we can start to expose this problem is by continuing to shed light on situations where we think there is potential for people to become apart of a terrorist group. We need to educate people on what signs to look for in their family and friends. In addition to this, we need to inform people on what to do or who to call if they suspect something without fear of consequence. As one nation, I believe that we can tackle these issues that influence our world and make a change for the better.