2014 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 2014 Capitol Forum schools.
Hastings Senior High School
Teacher: Robert Kerr
- Title: Improve the Homeland
The U.S. should focus on fixing its own problems so that the lives of average Americans are improved. Our economy has still not fully recovered from the recession of a few years ago and there are many problems at home that could better use our resources. We should help foreign nations to be more democratic, but only to the extent of showing them how to do it. When completed, we should get out so the people there don’t think we’re trying to “take over.” This will take some money, but will pay off in the long run.
- Title: Make the U.S. Strong
I believe that problems with our economy, especially the still high unemployment rate, are of major concern. The money that we’ve been spending overseas could be better spent here at home. We shouldn’t completely stop sending aid overseas, but it should be cut back so that taxpayers see more things done for them instead of for foreigners. Once the economy has stabilized, we could increase aid to other nations. This might not make others happy, but that’s a risk we need to take.
- Title: All For One, One For All
The U.S. should stabilize borders and set decisive limits for visas, as well as create strict guidelines and requirements for paths to residency and citizenship. International trade needs to be fair and legitimate environmental concerns should be addressed as we live on one planet whose resources can only last so long. We should be a friendly power to developing countries so that they will work with us in the world.
Howells-Dodge High School
- In my future I believe that the world should first protect its global interests while also attempting to work with the United Nations to get things accomplished. The idea of nuclear deterrence will not work forever, so we must work with everyone to lower the number of nuclear weapons. The U.S. should protect the homeland from terrorists. On the idea of immigrants, anyone already here whether legal or not should be left alone unless a known criminal record or carrying a disease. Environmentally, I feel the U.S. is fine the way it is. And finally, the U.S. should attempt to save free trade in an attempt to boost the economy.
- Probably a mixture of Futures 2 and 1. We need to protect our interests, yet be a leader in the world without being too pushy.
- I think we should be friendly but not too friendly. If another country trades or whatever with us then yes, we can help them. But any place doesn’t help us or like us then they don’t matter.
- I think we need to trade with the people we are trading with right. We should let immigrants in to do the jobs we don’t want and I believe we should make the citizenship a little easier. I don’t really care for what we do for nuclear weapons, and I guess for the environment we could use less power.
Nebraska Lutheran High School
Teacher: Cori Humann
- My future five focuses mainly on our national debt and the inevitable immigration reform facing our nation over the next ten years. Our nation is in a financial sinkhole. This will lead to problems with other nations when we start to be unable to pay our bills. Immigration reform needs to happen, and soon. Starting with the front door, we need to decide upon a system of what requirements we put on who comes in and why they’re coming. We also need to find a better system for keeping track of those on visas to help make sure they don’t overstay their welcome. After we’ve done that, we can decide the problem of those illegals that are already in this country. As far as the foreign policy front goes, immigration reform will play a huge role in foreign relations. We should also work to create better relations with tense places such as Russia, North Korea, and the Middle East, not to mention repairing the U.S.’s broken ties with India.
- I hope America takes care of their own country in the future. I think the most important problems facing America are inside America. The problem is that America spends too much time taking care of other countries that they don’t care about their own country. When foreign countries desperately need help, it would be nice of America to help those countries, but America doesn’t have to help them all the time. I want to be a soldier in Korea in the future. If America asks for help from Korea some day in the future, I might be able to help America. America might not need our help, but if they ask us for help, Korea would help America to overcome a bad situation that they face. Thank you for hearing my opinion.
- I believe the most important problems we are facing today are nuclear weapons, terrorism, and the U.S. debt. I think the U.S. should try to maintain world peace the best we can, stop terrorism, and try our best to find a way to get out of debt. Doing these things would hopefully benefit U.S. citizens by not being at war, not getting attacked by terrorists, and our country wouldn’t be in so much debt. Doing these things could cause some problems if we anger other countries in what we are doing, and some countries may not be happy if we stop helping them in order to help get rid of our debt. I think the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, though, and this is the best way to go.
- We need to help our economy because we are so far in debt and all we do is keep raising it. I think we should start focusing on our country more for a while until we can get some things under control. Some people think we shouldn’t even worry about it because we are so far in debt that we can never get out. We have dug ourselves in too deep and now we’re stuck. I think that if we stop worrying about other countries’ problems for a while to get our problems under control, we can eventually go back to helping countries better than we ever had been able to before.
- I believe that we need to bring jobs back to the U.S. so that we can start to work on our debt to China. This may make China a bit mad, but we need this money back in our hands. Also, we need to stop getting involved in things that we have nothing to do with. This would also save us money by not having to send military over to countries. We should just let countries decide if they need our help instead of us just charging in. By keeping jobs here in the country, we’re making more jobs, which will boost the economy. We need money to pay off our debt so we need to watch what we do.
Sterling High School
- We, the Sterling High School, believe that in “Future 5” we should put focus and emphasis on technological innovations. The United States should maintain its leadership position on inventing new technological advances. However, the United States should also put emphasis upon recruiting more nations to follow in its footsteps. By incorporating its allies and other nations, the world can globally cooperate in improving the advances in the technological field. These advances would allow for the development of new medical procedures, help combat world poverty, maintain and improve the infrastructure of developing countries, and start to explore further reaches in space. Although we need to work together globally to help combat the major issues of Nuclear Warfare, Terrorism, and World Trade, we also need to improve the nations with high number of outgoing immigrants. By improving those nations or developing countries we will eradicate the need for immigration, for there will not be a need for it. As a global community we can reduce the number of nuclear warheads and work together to increase security so that no terrorist can acquire such a threat. Also working with other countries by trading with them, will only improve our relationships with those countries. With a growing relationship we can help combat terrorism and oust the terrorist within those nations that have them. With the cooperation of the global community we can achieve all of these goals. While we might need to lead in the beginning, the ultimate goal would be to achieve global collaboration in advancing all fields of life.