Engaging Youth on the road to the U.S. Elections 2016

“How will the new U.S. President affect New Zealand? What is the impact of gerrymandering on the U.S. elections? How does the Electoral College work? Who do you think will win the Presidential Election?” These questions and more have been posed by New Zealand youth in high schools and universities. Students’ questions reflect their interests in election processes, democracy, constitutionalism, and governance.

Representatives of the U.S. Embassy New Zealand discussed these complex questions with students. These conversations yielded great learning experiences for all involved. Students enjoyed learning about the U.S. system, while diplomats got a chance to learn about New Zealand’s political processes, such as Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system and Maori electorates. Conversations occurred through various youth programs.

U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert speaks to students at ACG Parnell College on the U.S. Elections. Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert speaks to students at ACG Parnell College on the U.S. Elections. Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

Upon requests from schools in Auckland Wellington, U.S. diplomats engaged with high schools through the American Insights Program. While the American Insights Program enables schools to request a variety of presentation topics from the civil rights movement to American art and literature, the most requested topic this year was the U.S. Elections. Students thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to engage on the topic. One student stated it was “the most interesting hour of school in a long time.” Most recently a teacher from Glendowie Primary School, Auckland remarked that the presentation was “fascinating and engaged students to draw parallels with the New Zealand system.” (For details on how your school can request a U.S. diplomat presentation, please fill in and submit the American Insights Request form).

U.S. Diplomat Kennon Kincaid talks about the U.S. Electoral College at Glendowie Primary School. Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Diplomat Kennon Kincaid talks about the U.S. Electoral College at Glendowie Primary School. Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

At the university level, the Ambassador engaged in many events throughout the year to talk about the U.S. Elections with academics, media, and youth. In early October, the Ambassador addressed the University of Otago’s “Fulbright Forum: 2016 U.S. Presidential Election—a transformative event?” The forum provided an excellent array of topics as fellow panelists spoke on the potential impacts of the Election on key policies, the possibility of the first female U.S. President, how the Election outcome might impact the discussion on climate change, and the transformation of political leadership in the era of mass media and the social network. To view a video of the Forum check out:

U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert speaking at the University of Otago Fulbright Forum: 2016 U.S. Presidential Election—a transformative event? Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert speaking at the University of Otago Fulbright Forum: 2016 U.S. Presidential Election—a transformative event? Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.

In late October the U.S. Consulate General Auckland partnered with the University of Auckland Faculty of Arts to live screen the final U.S. Presidential debate. After watching the 90-minute debate, the Ambassador chaired and facilitated the packed audience’s questions to panelists, which included TVNZ U.S. Correspondent Jack Tame, Associate Professor in Politics Stephen Hoadley, and Dr. Maria Armoudian. Engaged politics and international relations students and members of the public relished the chance to further understand what the debates mean for the U.S. elections. To listen to the panel discussion, see: arts.auckland.ac.nz.

Panelists at the University of Auckland Final Presidential Debate Livestream and Discussion. U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert, Dr. Maria Armoudian, Jack Tame, Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley, Deputy Dean Bernadette Luciano. Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State.
Panelists at the University of Auckland Final Presidential Debate Livestream and Discussion. U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert, Dr. Maria Armoudian, Jack Tame, Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley, Deputy Dean Bernadette Luciano. Photo credit: University of Auckland. Photo credit: U.S. Department of State

Overall New Zealand youth have been avidly watching, tracking, and engaging with the 2016 U.S. Elections, anxiously awaiting the results and outcomes.

Related:

U.S. Elections 2016 – Your Complete Guide.