A few weeks ago the White House Office of Public Engagement launched the Native American Youth Challenge program. Upon reading the program title I instantly became interested. I thought “what a great program this must be” and “about time the White House challenged our Native youth”. Nothing could be better than getting our Native youth moving toward a collective goal.
I quickly clicked the link and after reading about this challenge my initial feelings of elation began to deflate, much like a balloon with a gaping hole. My balloon was filled with the possibilities of what could be – a Native empowerment/leadership program, increased support to impoverished youth in Native communities. Instead the pin that pierced my balloon was what I read – a call for success stories. By the time I was finished reading by balloon was no more, the latest of White House Native focused initiatives to come up short.
A challenge is defined as “a call to engage in a contest, a call to fight, a demand to explain”. I get the use of the word challenge as the White House uses it, wherein the Native American Youth Challenge is explained as:
Are you doing extraordinary things to make a difference for your tribe, village or community? Take the Native American Youth Challenge. We want to hear your stories and a group of exceptional Native youth community leaders will be invited to the White House this fall in conjunction with the activities of Native American heritage month. We will also consider your stories of leadership and service as we feature individuals on the White House website. Tell us your story – everyone has a story to tell and a part to play.
The challenge here is to for Native youth to tell their success stories, with the reward to gain recognition from the White House. In that sense the challenge is a call to engage in a contest. I support this use of the word and also the White House’s reward. It’s going to be fantastic for those Native youth to see the capital city and be acknowledged for their community efforts. I commend those Native Youth who do submit their success stories, may their stories inspire others to reach just as far.
I issue my own challenge, the kind that is a call to fight. The initiative should have been more appropriately titled the Native American Youth Story Telling Time. It amounts to little more than the White House giving itself an opportunity to say “Look at us! We do care about Native communities!” Why wasn’t the initiative backed by grants to support future Native youth initiated projects? Why not challenge Native youth who have great ideas, but lack sufficient help?
I also challenge, in the demand to explain sense, us Natives. Are we going to accept our stagnant state of affairs? Is this Native American Youth Story Telling time really the best that the White House will do? Let us all question and critique what is done in our name!
Lastly, I’d advise those selected to start saving up their change because the White House won’t be paying for your travel or hotel. I hope you read that before your balloon was inflated.
- Obama Wants to Hear Solutions From Native American Youth (indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com)