International Day inspires future voters
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DeeAnn Grove discusses voter characteristics and the gender gap. Photo by Kirk Murray.
Stephanie Smith won’t be eligible to vote for five years, but a recent experience hosted by the University of Iowa College of Education left her eager to fill out a ballot.
“Instead of letting other people choose the person who is going to be our leader, I can have a say in it,” she says with a smile.
The seventh grader from Cedar Rapids was one of more than 300 middle-school and junior-high students attending the 16thannual International Day for Human Rights Nov. 6. This year’s event focused on the “Human Right to Political Participation.”
International Day is designed to educate students from eastern Iowa and western Illinois on local and global human rights issues. Students hear a keynote address and participate in small group breakout sessions. This year, students also took part in a mock caucus and vote about their views on U.S. foreign relations.
This year’s keynote speaker was Lyombe Eko, a professor of media law and ethics and international communication at the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS). Eko’s keynote address was titled “Stand up! Speak up for Human Rights!”
Smith says she enjoyed learning about Eko’s background—he was born in Cameroon, West Africa.
“It was interesting that at first he couldn’t vote when he came to America,” Smith says, adding that his story helped her understand that voting is a privilege.
Andrew Branan leads discussion about stereotypes in American Indian culture. Photo by Kirk Murray.
Breakout session topics included “The Gender Gap: Do Candidates for President Care More about Women than Men Voters?” led by DeeAnn Grove, a doctoral student in the college’s Schools, Culture, and Society program; and “The Sound of Democracy: Music, Power, and Political Participation” led by Trevor Harvey, a professor in the School of Music in CLAS. Andrew Branan, a graduate student in the UI College of Education, presented a session titled “The American Indian Stereotype in Historical Perspective.”
Breakout session leaders came from several departments at the UI as well as the Iowa City Public Library, Amnesty International, and the Iowa United Nations Association.
Jill Kelly, director of the Oelwein Community School District’s Extended Learning Program, has brought students to International Day for seven years.
“It’s so good,” she says. “The students always get excited about the issues. My eighth graders are excited about having class tomorrow to continue the discussion, which is neat.”
Kelly says she especially enjoys having her students interact with UI professors.
“They ask the big, meaty questions kids aren’t used to thinking about,” she says.
Greg Hamot, a social studies education professor in the UI College of Education and director of the UI Center for Human Rights, is one of the co-coordinators of the event. Hamot says this year’s conference was especially exciting because it occurred on Election Day.
“Being able to hear, discuss, and analyze the foreign policy platforms of each party in Tuesday’s presidential election gave the students a sense of enfranchisement that we adults sometimes forget we have and need to exercise. Looking at and choosing a path for our role as a nation in international human rights gave the students a reason to watch the election results in the evening to see how their views would be addressed in the next administration,” Hamot says.
In addition to the College of Education, event sponsors included the Stanley Foundation, the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development in the College of Education, UI International Programs, the UI Center for Human Rights, and the Coralville Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.
For more information, visit www.education.uiowa.edu/services/internationalday.