The New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate

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The Lighter Side of Election, Care of Candidate Zero

Click here to see if you've got the skills to be President - you know, the lightenin' quick arrow keys and the fearless ability to collect votes by eating stars in a maze while dodging voracious cartoon Democrats and Republicans. If you first collect a ticket, button, picket, or cup of coffee then you can win 50 votes by swaying each Democrat or Republican in your favor - AKA eating them Pac-Man-style. (Ms. Pac-Man-style for the ladies.) The game's wahka-wahka-wahka sound is worth it alone.

Nonpartisan Parody: CANDIDATE ZERO is a one-platform pol who knows how to bond with potential voters ("I've always wanted to try yoga"; "Tiramisu is never as good as you think it's going to be"). He's got his own bio ("I invented the after-hours party") and his own mockumentary clips from the mock campaign trail where he mockingly mocks about himself and our "beautiful land of freedom, where woodchucks can chuck and the deer can do...whatever it is that deer like to do." Added bonus: Real footage of a hopping monkey. It's a monkey. But it's hopping.

NEW! The Candidate Responses and Rebuttals!

In case you've accessed this page directly, we want to make sure you know...

NONPARTISANSHIP: From marketing only through strictly nonpartisan media outlets, to creating an evenly split pre-moderating panel of individuals and a nonpartisan moderating panel, we exhaustively committed ourselves to keeping true to our nonpartisanship. You can click here to learn more about the vigilantly nonpartisan process we used to reach millions of young Americans and ultimately enable them to ask and choose these final questions for the candidates.

PREVIOUSLY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ONLY: The final questions don't include all of the many concerns that are important to young Americans. Indeed, we were inundated with questions that had been repeatedly answered by the candidates but rarely get air-time in the traditional debates. After you've viewed the responses to these top 12 previously unanswered questions, don't forget to also check out the answers to those other common questions from young Americans by clicking here.

Go straight to the rebuttals

Or read on for the opening statements, responses and rebuttals.

Opening Statements:

Anthony Tedesco

Hi and welcome to The New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate. I'm Anthony Tedesco , founder of The Presidential Youth Debates. On behalf of our moderating panel and millions of young Americans, I'd like to thank you, President George W. Bush, Senator John Kerry and Mr. Ralph Nader, for your participation.

The first question will be from our lead moderator, Farai Chideya, and the next set of questions will be the 10 previously unanswered concerns asked and chosen by 18-35 year olds as most important to them. The final question will be the one asked and chosen by 13-17 year-old "Future Voters" as their greatest concern.

We've asked that the candidates limit their responses to 300 words, and we've given each candidate the opportunity to add one 500-word rebuttal by the end of October 19th.

Let's begin with an opening statement from each candidate...

Senator John Kerry:

Senator John KerryWe are a can-do country, I am filled with optimism and hope by our nation's young people. The young people I have met throughout this campaign inspire me with their ingenuity and their dedication to creating a better future for America. I would like to thank The New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate and Anthony Tedesco for allowing me the opportunity to address the concerns of the youth of today because they are the leaders of tomorrow.

President George Bush:

President George BushAmerica's youth is at the heart of our great country, providing the energy and vision that will soon lead this Nation. Young people across America are engaging in activities to better their communities and ensure that their opinions are heard. Yet despite the energy and activism of many youth, less than half of eligible voters, ages 18-24, voted in recent national elections. The youth voice needs to be heard - so I encourage you to make sure that it is!

I am excited to be participating in this online debate, because it engages young people and challenges them to think about the issues and the leadership that will affect the future of our country. I would like to thank The New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate, for providing this forum to connect with millions of young Americans. And I would like to thank you for your interest. As this election nears, it is increasingly important that the youth of America cast their ballots to determine the next President of the United States. I hope that on November 2nd, you will give me your vote - and vote for a leader who will continue to promote a prosperous, safe, and secure America.

Mr. Ralph Nader:

Ralph NaderThank you for inviting the Nader-Camejo campaign to participate in "The New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate." We appreciate the work of the founder, Anthony Tedesco, who has produced these debates for America's youth since 1996. It is an honor to be the first non-major party candidate invited to participate. [Please note: All candidates who met the criteria detailed in The Appleseed Citizens' Task Force on Fair Debates were invited to participate.]

Young voters and future voters are especially important to the Nader-Camejo campaign as one of our goals is to find and help develop future leaders of America. I have always seen the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.

Today we are at a critical point in history and you have an opportunity to lead a mobilization that shapes your future. Both corporate-controlled political parties are taking our country over a cliff, the Democrats are just doing it a little slower. Political pundits will tell you to accept the lesser of two evils, to support an overall pro-war, pro-corporate globalization party, and put your idealism on the shelf. I, like many of you, have reached a breaking point with the two-party system. It either must be driven toward the people or driven out in the coming years. You have a choice - drop out or drop-in.

This campaign is a call to action for the young people of America.

We need a world where politics is activated by vision, not fear, where media is created by people, not corporations, where energy is produced more from the sun and less from oil, where business is driven by human need, not greed, and where foreign policy is dedicated to justice -- not war. No Justice, No Peace.

We need your energy, your passion, and your commitment to help build a more just, equitable world - a world of happiness and the fulfillment of human possibilities. We are developing a 12-year plan to help young Americans to take control of their future and change our political system.

We encourage you to read our website for deeper discussions on the issues presented here - www.votenader.org. We invite you to join with us in this effort to engage more voices in the political spectrum and urge you to pass this message on to all your family, friends, classmates, and instant messaging buddies. Together, we can declare our own independence from corporate rule.

Your Questions, and the Candidates' Responses and Rebuttals

Click below to jump to that question.

  4. DRAFT
The United States is one of the only nations in the world that executes juvenile offenders, putting us in the company of Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Why is the United States on this list? Do you believe executing minors is a good policy, and if not, what will you do to change the law?
Senator John Kerry Responds:   

I believe that the death penalty should only be used for terrorists. I do not think that executing minors is good policy. I will, however, enforce the laws of the land.

President George Bush Responds:   

The justice system of the United States has long been a beacon and example for the world, and is grounded in the principles of equality and impartiality. Unlike the legal systems of many other nations, the law assumes innocence unless guilt is proven before a jury of peers. The imposition of capital punishment is reserved by the government as the severest sentence for the gravest of crimes - like the terrible bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

I support the death penalty for heinous crimes, but only where the process is fair and guilt is certain. And I believe strongly that if it is administered justly, fairly, and swiftly, capital punishment serves as a deterrent to crime. With respect to the age at which individuals should be eligible for the death penalty, Federal law prohibits execution of those under 18 when the offense was committed, and I see no reason to change that statue. The Supreme Court will soon consider whether the Constitution requires states to follow a similar rule.

To increase the level of certainty regarding the guilt or innocence of the convicted, I have substantially increased funding for DNA testing. I proposed $236 million in Federal funding in FY 2005 for my Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology initiative, part of a total five-year funding commitment of over $1 billion. This program will improve the use of DNA in the criminal justice system and ensure that DNA technology reaches its full potential.

Many young people turn to crime at a young age, because they lack necessary guidance or education. The best way to prevent youth crime is to attack its causes, and my Administration has put several programs into place to do precisely that.

My Administration supports mentoring programs that help at-risk youth stay on the right path by providing them with adult guidance and educational opportunities. These programs have particularly targeted children of prisoners, who are statistically more likely to commit crimes.

Project Sentry combines education and law enforcement initiatives, to prevent future crime by connecting young people with respected members of the community.

Under Project Safe Neighborhoods, my initiative for enforcing existing gun laws, Federal gun crime prosecutions have increased by 68 percent during the last three years. The violent crime victimization rate is at its lowest level in 30 years.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

The Nader/Camejo campaign opposes the death penalty in any form, particularly the odious practice of executing minors. The government enforces the death penalty unfairly along lines of class and race. Furthermore, capital punishment does not deter crime. It results in innocent people being executed, and corrupts the exemplary status of the state. To reverse this, we need to call for an immediate moratorium on executions, especially of juveniles. We must invest in humane treatment, personal involvement of youngsters, and job creation. We need to restore sentencing discretion to judges by repealing mandatory sentences and arbitrary "three-strikes" laws. We also need to restore due process, judicial discretion and constitutional restraints on law enforcement that violate equal protection and due process of law.

In regards to social security, as a professional 25-year-old worker I'm concerned that I'm paying into a system, which is severely over-taxed and will be non-existent when I reach retirement. I would like to know what steps will be taken to either ensure I will get the benefits I've paid for, or to allow me to no longer contribute to Social Security and use that extra income to invest myself for my retirement, most likely in a Roth IRA.
President George Bush Responds:   

The Social Security system was established for good reason - to enhance retirement security for working Americans. But your future fiscal security should not have to rely on a system that was established for your grandparents - when life expectancy was shorter and few women worked outside of the home. In 1950, there were 16 workers paying into Social Security for each person receiving benefits. That number has dropped to only 3.3 workers paying into Social Security for each person receiving benefits today. As your parents and members of the Baby Boom generation begin to retire, the number of workers supporting retirees will continue to shrink, and when you and your generation retire, there will be only two workers to support each person on Social Security.

Our Social Security system must adapt to these new realities if it is to remain strong in the 21st century. I favor the establishment of voluntary personal accounts for younger workers. These accounts would provide ownership, choice, control, and the opportunity to build a nest egg that workers could use for their retirement and pass on to their families. To ensure that those who are retired or near retirement have financial security today, I oppose any changes in current benefits. And we will not raise the payroll tax on working Americans.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

We faced a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create real, bipartisan Social Security reform with our record budget surpluses. This opportunity was squandered and the life of Social Security was not extended. My Social Security plan is based on three pillars; growing the economy, restoring fiscal discipline and working in a bipartisan manner. We must end the practice of robbing the Social Security Trust Fund to balance the budget and protect savings for the future.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

Social Security places government in one of its noblest roles: as an institution that offers a bedrock financial guarantee to all members of society that they need not fear the financial consequences of growing old or disabled. That's quite the opposite of the U.S. government's all too familiar role as a provider of corporate welfare, a patsy to narrow business interests that hijack government programs and agencies and convert taxpayers assets into private profits, with inadequate reciprocal benefits to the public.

Our Social Security system is under attack. Relying on a trumped-up "crisis" in our social security program, a band of so-called privatizers want to convert our social security commonwealth into individual, private accounts.

The privatizers mislead the public. They distort returns we are likely to experience from a privatized system. They fail to mention the enormous administrative fees that stockbrokers and insurance agents might conceivably skim from private accounts, and they remain silent about the likelihood of millions of people losing their retirement income in the stock market. They ignore warnings that stock fraud hucksters will inevitably take advantage of people who are encouraged to put their social security money in the stock market.

If the system is privatized, this tranquility will be replaced by anxiety, as we worry about whether we will be winners or losers in the system's roller-coaster ride on Wall Street.

We would defend Social Security from risky privatization plans, ensuring its long-term fiscal solvency. Social Security needs no "saving," only improvement through gradual changes to the benefits and revenue structure. Adjusting the benefit formula for widows and widowers would reduce the poverty rate of 20% for older women living alone. If a small amount of additional revenue is needed, raise the income cap on Social Security taxes or tax executive bonuses and stock options.

The U.S. has been accused of cultural and economic imperialism in the past, and now with the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, we are being accused by people around the world of imposing our will on others with force. How do you respond to that, and what would you do to restore our nation's reputation around the world, including any actions you would take that you haven't previously mentioned?
President George Bush Responds:   

In little over a generation, we have witnessed the swiftest advance of freedom in the 2,500-year story of democracy. It is no accident that the rise of so many democracies took place in a time when the world's most influential nation was itself a democracy.

The United States has adopted a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East, which requires the same persistence, energy, and idealism we have shown before. The advance of freedom is the calling of our time, and we believe the freedom we prize is not for us alone - it is the right and the capacity of all mankind.

The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. And, today, as we have for decades, Americans are amply displaying our willingness to sacrifice for liberty.

Observers have questioned whether the Middle East, or its people, are "ready" for democracy - as if freedom were a prize you win for meeting our own Western standards of progress. In fact, the daily work of democracy itself is the path of progress. It teaches cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. As we are witnessing, it is the practice of democracy that makes a nation ready for democracy, and every nation can start on this path.

As we watch and encourage reforms in the region, we are mindful that modernization is not the same as Westernization. Representative governments in the Middle East will reflect their own cultures. They will not, and should not, look like us. Democratic nations may be constitutional monarchies, federal republics, or parliamentary systems. And working democracies always need time to develop - as did our own.

In Iraq, the Interim Iraqi Government is working to build a democracy, as they move toward free elections by January 2005.

This is a massive and difficult undertaking, but one worth our effort and sacrifice, because we know the stakes. The failure of Iraqi democracy would embolden terrorists around the world, increase dangers to the American people, and extinguish the hopes of millions in the region. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution.

The first measure of our success and commitment to transform the Middle East and our relations with Muslim communities occurred this weekend in Afghanistan. After decades of brutal dictatorship and violence, millions of people turned out to vote for their next President. They defied the pessimists who said it could not be done and gave voice to all those in the Middle East who want to participate in the democratic process.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

There's an impressive catalog of actions taken by our government in our name and shrouded in secrecy: repeating falsehoods to start an unlawful invasion of Iraq, illegal spending, government overthrows, corporate tax havens, sovereignty-shredding trade agreements, circumventing our courts and agencies, taking nuclear waste from other countries, and allowing advanced weaponry and data to be sold by companies to oppressive regimes. It is no wonder the world considers the United States a belligerent bully that protects corporate interests, not the interests of the people.

America's foreign policy might not consist of a succession of follies if it were conducted and monitored more democratically. American foreign policy must redefine the elements of global security, peace, arms control; call for an end to nuclear weapons; and expand the many assets of our country to launch, with other nations, major initiatives against global infections diseases (such as AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and virulent flu epidemics) which have and are coming to our country in increasingly drug resistant strains.

Other low cost-high yield (compared to massive costs of redundant weapons) that extend the best of our country abroad include public health measures for drinking water safety abroad, tobacco control, stemming soil erosion, deforestation and misuse of chemicals, international labor standards, stimulating democratic institutions, agrarian cooperatives and demonstrating appropriate technologies dealing with agriculture, transportation, housing and efficient, renewable energy. The UN Development Program and many NGO's working abroad provide essential experience and directions in this regard including ending the specter of hunger, malnutrition and resultant diseases with known and proven remedies and practices. With this foreign policy orientation overhauls we will discover and facilitate the indigenous genius of the Third World, recalling Brazilian Paulo Freire (literacy), Egyptian Hasan Fathi (agrarian housing) and Bangladeshi Mohammed Yunis (microcredit).

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American leadership in foreign policy. He said America should walk softly and carry a big stick. Time and again, the Bush Administration has violated the fundamental tenet of Roosevelt's approach, as he described it: "If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble."

But that is precisely what the Bush Administration has done. They looked to force before exhausting diplomacy. They bullied when they should have persuaded. They have gone it alone when they should have assembled a team. They have hoped for the best when they should have prepared for the worst. In short, they have undermined the legacy of generations of American leadership. And that is what we must restore.

Today, there is still a powerful yearning around the world for an America that listens and leads again. An America that is respected, and not just feared. I believe that respect is an indispensable mark of our nation's character - and an indispensable source of our nation's strength. It is the indispensable bond of America's mighty alliances.

The most urgent national security challenge we face is the war against those who attacked our country on September 11th, the war against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. As president, I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror. My priority will be to find and capture or kill the terrorists before they get us.

It's time for a new national security policy guided by four new imperatives: First, I will launch and lead a new era of alliances for the post 9-11 world. Second, I will modernize the world's most powerful military to meet the new threats. Third, in addition to our military might, I will deploy all that is in America's arsenal -- our military, our diplomacy, our intelligence system, our economic power, and the appeal of our values and ideas. Fourth and finally, to secure our full independence and freedom, I have a plan to free America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil.

4. DRAFT: top
Democratic Congressmen Charles Rangel and Ernest Hollings have been pushing to reinstate and change the draft, Senate 89 and House 163. The two bills call for the drafting of women, and don't allow exemptions for college or only children. The Congressmen are pushing the bill under the claim that too many minorities are fighting for our country (CNN.com, February, 2003). What are the chances of you supporting such a drastic change in our drafting process, and under what circumstances would you institute a draft, or any other national service, to fight a war?
Senator John Kerry Responds:   

I oppose reinstating the draft, and I am committed to an all volunteer military. Our military is overstretched and overextended. George Bush has effectively used a back door draft of our National Guard and reserves, and used a "stop-loss" policy to extend tours of duty, delayed retirements, and prevented enlisted personnel from leaving the service. This has happened on the backs of the men and women who've already fulfilled their obligation to the armed forces and to our country. Military families are under incredible strain as it becomes harder and harder to balance the demands of family life and military duty.

I will fight to relieve the burden on our troops, while modernizing our military to meet new threats. I have a plan to expand the all-volunteer active duty Army by 40,000 soldiers. Not by draft, and not to increase the number of soldiers in Iraq, but to add new volunteer soldiers trained and ready to meet new threats and relieve the strain on our troops. My plan will bring more of our soldiers, guardsmen and reservists back home to their families and get them time for the new training they need.

I will fight a tougher, smarter, more effective war on terror. My priority will be to find and capture or kill the terrorists before they get us. I have a plan to win the peace in Iraq, and bring our troops home. And I will face the urgent nuclear dangers in North Korea and Iran, which George Bush has allowed to mount on his watch.

President George Bush Responds:   

I want to quell the recent rumors that have been circulating once and for all: We will not have a draft so long as I am the President of the United States. In fact, current law prohibits reinstatement of the draft absent legislation and such legislation was recently defeated in the House of Representatives 402 to 2.

I am committed to keeping participation in the United States Armed Services voluntary. In order to win the war on terror, we must ensure that our troops are highly skilled and specialized, and that they are trained and equipped to successfully complete their missions. A draft will not allow us to create the specialized force we require to face our current threats. That is why the all-voluntary military is working superbly, and we do not need a draft.

My Administration has maintained a consistent and firm position on this issue, and we have clearly stated that a draft is not being considered. Recruitment and retention rates remain strong, and the military has not had any problem maintaining a strong force. I am confident in the current state of the military and I have assured the Nation that the all-volunteer military is performing with great strength and valor.

Military commanders in the field tell me they have the personnel and resources they need. If they need more, I will make sure they get it. We have the resources now to meet current and potential threats. I also have great confidence in the men and women of our armed forces, and our Nation greatly appreciates their service and honors their sacrifices. My pledge to our military is that it will have what it needs to fight and get the job done. Our enemies need to know that we are determined, and any effort to test us will draw a strong response. We are transforming our military so that we can meet any test with all the might of this great country.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

The Rangel and Hollings bills not only failed to provide exemptions for college students and only children, but the bills offered no special status for conscientious objectors. Despite the House's recent resounding 402-2 defeat of the draft bills in question, the spectre of a draft remains. With candidate John Kerry calling for 150,000 more troops in Iraq, but not indicating where they will come from, and with President Bush promising endless warfare, American youth must act now to prevent forced conscription.

A back-door draft is already in place. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields recently made the point that "We do not have an all-volunteer service today. The reality is that we now have a limited military draft. But the only Americans who are subjected to the current "draft" are those who have already demonstrated their patriotism by volunteering to serve in the military and have then served honorably. The truth is that as of last month, no fewer than 44,500 American soldiers who had fulfilled their contractual obligations, completed their enlistments and made plans to return to civilian life or retirement were frozen -- by an arbitrary "stop-loss" order -- on active duty."

Coerced military service amounts to slavery, and America can stop the talk of a draft with a dual corporate and military exit from Iraq. Under a U.S. withdrawal, the United Nations should develop an international peace-keeping force from neutral nations with such experience and from Islamic countries. This peacekeeping force should be assembled immediately to replace all US troops and civilian military contractors doing many jobs the Army used to do more efficiently. Americans must support Iraqi self rule and free and fair elections. The US should provide humanitarian aid to Iraq to rebuild its infrastructure. Control over Iraqi oil and other assets should be exercised by Iraqis.

To the candidates, you talk a lot about the importance of promoting democracy in other countries. However, I have never heard you take on the issue of election reform in our own country. The current presidential system seems to have several shortcomings, including two-party duopoly and the ability to win the Election without winning the popular vote. This hardly seems democratic. What are your positions on instant-runoff voting and proportional representation? Do you currently, and would you in the future, support any reforms to encourage a greater diversity in our political system?
President George Bush Responds:   

I signed the Help America Vote Act, which has provided $3 billion to states and local governments to help make sure the voting process is fair. The law requires jurisdictions to provide for provisional voting, provide voter information at polling places, comply with Federal rules for mail-in registration, and properly manage statewide voter registration lists. It also created the Election Assistance Commission, which is providing assistance to state and local authorities as they move forward on complying with the Act's requirements.

I was also proud to sign into law campaign finance reform, which is helping to improve the integrity of the electoral process by preventing unions and corporations from making unregulated, "soft" money contributions, increasing the influence of individuals, and creating new disclosure requirements.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

All Americans saw in the 2000 election how crucial free and fair elections are for our society. That is why I supported the election reform legislation and continue to fight for electoral reform. Voter intimidation and race-based efforts to stop people from voting are an outrage that we simply must stop. Even before I am elected, I will protect voting rights by providing teams of election observers and lawyers to monitor elections and enforce the law. And as president, I will reform our national election system to correct the problems revealed by the 2000 presidential election.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

Our democracy is in a descending crisis. Voter turnout is among the lowest in the western world. Redistricting ensures very few incumbents are at risk in one-party districts. Barriers to full participation of candidates proliferate making it very obstructive, for most third party and Independent candidates to run. Obstacles, and deliberate manipulations to undermine the right to vote, for which penalties are rarely imposed, are preventing voters from voting. New paperless voting machines are raising questions about whether we can trust that our votes are being counted as they are cast. Finally, money dominates expensive campaigns, mainly waged on television in sound bite format. The cost of campaigns creates a stranglehold making politics a game for only the rich or richly funded. Major electoral reforms are needed to ensure that every vote counts, all voters are represented through electoral reforms like instant run-off voting, abolition of the electoral college, none-of-the-above options, and proportional representation, non-major party candidates have a chance to run for office and participate in debates, and that elections are publicly financed.

The Nader/Camejo campaign favors lowering the voting age to 16 years old. Persons aged 16 work, pay taxes and more and more often are subjected to criminal laws passed that treat them like adults. Democracy in the United States needs re-invigoration. Allowing youth the right to vote will increase voter participation, not only of 16 to 18 year olds, but also in the longer term as youth are taught at an early age the importance of voting. Concurrent with this change in law, instruction in school should increase about civics, government and the importance of voting. Rather than explaining all the very good reasons for allowing the youth vote, we believe it is best to let youth speak for themselves.

I have a question about the Higher Education Act (HEA) drug provision. This provision disqualifies students with drug convictions from receiving financial aid. Black students and lower to middle class students are unfairly targeted, as wealthier students can afford tuition and need not apply for financial aid. Do you feel it is necessary to deny financial aid to a student who already paid for their crime? Are you aware that students with a rape or murder conviction are not exempt from receiving financial aid?
President George Bush Responds:   

A good education is the most important factor in ensuring your future success. My first legislative priority was the No Child Left Behind law, which is setting high standards and demanding results from schools so that every student completes high school prepared for the rigors of college or to enter the workforce equipped with the necessary skills.

My Administration has worked tirelessly to make available the financial resources that will help more students attend college. My 2005 budget requests a record $73.1 billion in financial aid to help nearly 10 million students attend college, an increase of $25.9 billion (55%) since I took office. My budget also increases Pell Grant funding by 47% since 2001, helping one million more low-income students. My plan also provides low-income students with the chance to receive up to $5,000 in grants to study math or science in college. I have proposed Enhanced Pell Grants to provide additional assistance to low-income students who complete challenging coursework in high school better preparing them for success.

My commitment to our Nation's students is clear. Because of the leadership of my Administration, attending college is a reality for more students - especially those struggling to pay college costs. I also want students to avoid unhealthy and often dangerous activities, such as using illegal drugs. Illegal drug use can have devastating consequences. Taking responsibility for one's actions is another important part of becoming a successful adult.

My 2005 Budget proposes to fix the drug provision of the Higher Education Act so that incoming students who have a prior drug-related conviction would be able to receive Federal student aid, and only students convicted while in college would lose their eligibility for student aid.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

Education is perhaps the best way for someone who has been involved with drugs or crime to turn their life around. If a young person has overcome past obstacles and is ready to go to college, I don't think that a nonviolent drug conviction in their past should prevent them from doing so. And the reality is that preventing them from obtaining federal loans means they won't be able to afford to go to college.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

Repeal the Higher Education Act drug provision as it applies to non-violent offenders. The drug war has failed - we spend nearly $50 billion annually on the drug war and problems related to drug abuse continue to worsen. Drug abuse is a health problem with social and economic consequences. The solutions are public health, social services and economic development and tender supportive time with addicts in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges of drug control not at the center. It is time to control some illegal drugs through regulation and taxation. Ending the drug war will dramatically reduce street crime, violence and homicides related to underground drug dealing.

The drug war and criminal injustice system certainly have a racially unfair impact. The facts on this are evident, according to federal surveys, "most current illicit drug users are white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were current illicit drug users in 1998." Despite these facts, African Americans constitute 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations. African-Americans comprise almost 58% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics account for 20.7%. From racial profiling to discretionary decisions of prosecutors and judges, African Americans and Latinos are treated more harshly than European-Americans.

By reducing corporate welfare, cutting the military budget and taxing wealth not work, the federal government can guarantee a free higher education to all qualified people. Already more than $155 billion has been spent on the Iraq war, adding to huge Bush deficits, when critical needs are not being met at home. That $155 billion could finance four years of free public college and university tuition for all students.

In the 1960s, a concerted effort was made, at the behest of Pres. Kennedy, to reach the moon within 10 years, an incredibly ambitious goal that was ultimately achieved. Do you think that, if a similar effort were made to develop alternative fuels, we would be similarly successful, and would you be willing to make this effort? Also, what benefits do you see alternative fuels bringing our nation, with respect to education, environment, security, and foreign policy?
Senator John Kerry Responds:   

I believe that we must return to our great tradition of asking, "what if?" That is the approach that I take to energy independence. We must push our scientists and greatest thinkers to marshal a great effort to develop the new technologies that will make us energy independent. Our reliance on Mid-Eastern oil have placed a great burden on our economic security and our national security. Under my administration, we will set forward looking goals, like using renewable fuels for 20 percent of our energy by 2020 and bringing new, low-emission vehicles to our streets.

President George Bush Responds:   

For too long, the Federal government has enacted patchwork solutions when an energy crisis arises, rather than addressing the root of the challenges we face. As one of my first acts in office, I proposed the first comprehensive and balanced National Energy Policy (NEP) in a generation to encourage energy efficiency and conservation, support alternative and renewable energy, increase domestic energy production, create jobs, and promote economic growth.

I have always been a strong proponent of clean, domestic renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. I have repeatedly called on Congress to enact a flexible, national renewable fuels standard that would require the use of 5 billion gallons of ethanol and biodiesel as motor fuel by 2012. This program will help reduce our dependence on foreign sources of oil, help our farm economy by creating new markets for agricultural products, and create new agricultural jobs.

To further improve our energy security, I proposed tax incentives for consumers who purchase hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. I also raised fuel economy standards for SUVs, vans, and pick-up trucks for the first time in a decade. Once fully adopted, this rule will save 343,000 barrels per day of gasoline, or about 1 billion barrels over 10 years.

In the longer term, we must pursue the transformation of America's energy infrastructure to support a more fuel-efficient, hydrogen-based economy. I announced two important measures in early 2003 that will help make a hydrogen economy possible. My budget supports $1.7 billion over five years for the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative and a public-private partnership, Freedom CAR, which will work to create automobiles that run on clean-burning hydrogen.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

We urge a new clean energy policy that no longer subsidizes entrenched oil, nuclear, electric and coal mining interests -- an energy policy that is efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. We need to invest in renewable energy because America's addiction to cheap oil is at the root of our two largest problems: the Iraqi occupation and facing up to the immediate crisis of global climate change. Future geopolitical crises involving oil resources and environmental problems will be diminished by finding alternatives to fossil fuels.

The Nader/Camejo Campaign praises the Apollo Alliance's "Ten-Point Plan for Good Jobs and Energy Independence," an overdue agenda for the country's energy future, as a welcome contrast to the shortsighted policies of the Bush Administration. In the spirit of its namesake, which galvanized the will of the American people into a national effort to put an American on the moon, the new Apollo Project advocates a full engagement of the federal government with the initiative of the American people in the service of revitalizing our country's approach to its energy plight.

Within a single decade, beginning in 2005, the Apollo Project proposes to establish a viable infrastructure to achieve American energy independence. Calling for a $313.72 billion dollar federal investment in that ten-year period, Apollo shifts the burden of American energy consumption away from fossil fuels and onto domestic renewable energy markets such as the wind, biomass, and solar energy industries.

The Apollo Alliance's Ten-Point Plan for Good Jobs and Energy Independence:

  1. Promote Advanced Technology & Hybrid Cars.
  2. Invest In More Efficient Factories.
  3. Encourage High Performance Building.
  4. Increase Use of Energy Efficient Appliances.
  5. Modernize Electrical Infrastructure.
  6. Expand Renewable Energy Development.
  7. Improve Transportation Options.
  8. Reinvest In Smart Urban Growth.
  9. Plan For A Hydrogen Future.
  10. Preserve Regulatory Protections.

Having gone to high school in a very conservative area, where parents refused to teach their children proper sex education, I watched 20 of my classmates leave due to teenage pregnancy. Some knew about sex while others had no idea how to get pregnant. What is your opinion on sex education in the classroom and what resources (information, condoms, etc) should be used? Do you believe that teaching abstinence alone is enough to save our children from teen pregnancy and spreading disease?
President George Bush Responds:   

While I have maintained funding for existing "abstinence-plus" sex education programs, the fact is the number of sexually transmitted diseases in this country represents a real public health challenge. To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face - even when they are difficult to talk about. Each year, at least 3 million teenagers contract sexually-transmitted diseases that can harm them, kill them, or prevent them from ever becoming parents - and those numbers are going up. In my budget, I proposed a grassroots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks. We will double Federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases or pregnancy.

Decisions children make now can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us - parents, schools, and government - must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture and to send the right messages to our children.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

Education needs to be facts-based not dogma-based. This is true when it comes to responsible sex education. More important is civics educations. School must teach civic education and connect the classroom with the community. Getting youngsters, even as young as the fifth and sixth grades, to learn how to practice democracy, to connect knowledge to action is vital.

To help people grow up civic instead of growing up corporate is an important function of the Department of Education. Our education system is becoming too vocational and occupation-oriented, which is OK if it is not disproportionate and if it doesn't squeeze out the most important role of education, which is civic. I also would emphasize consumer education. Children are spending more and more money directly -- under 12 years of age they spent $ 12 billion last year, and they caused their parents to spend $ 150 billion. They need a consumer perspective, how to become a smart shopper.

Children's commercial television programming conveys that violence is a solution to life's problems, and pushes low-grade sensuality, from junk food and drink to pornography and addiction, as a way of life. Commercial Alert's "Parents' Bill of Rights" includes provisions that could reduce the number of pornographic and violent images children see, and potentially diminish the drive towards premature sexual behavior. The "Parents' Bill of Rights" includes provisions like the Advertising to Children Accountability Act, Commercial Free Schools Act, and the Fairness Doctrine for Parents' Act. See www.commercialalert.org for more info.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

I believe that sex education instruction should include information about both abstinence and contraception and have worked in the Senate to ensure that sex education funding is not limited to teaching abstinence education.

Why won't the candidates address the difference between civil marriage and religious marriage? Do they recognize the significance that this demarcation holds as a stand against discrimination? Do they realize how their unwillingness to address this issue impacts every aspect of GLBT's (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender), and their families', lives? Are they aware that when political issues call civil rights into question that hate crimes rise exponentially?
President George Bush Responds:   

I believe that the union of a man and woman in marriage is the most enduring human institution. I called upon the Congress to pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife. I believe that the American people, and not activist judges, should make this decision.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

I believe that gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships should have equal rights and responsibilities and I believe that the best way to achieve that is through civil unions. I also believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. Finally, I believe that marriage law has been the responsibility of the states for over 200 years and that is how things should remain. George Bush's effort to pass a federal marriage amendment is divisive.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

The Nader/Camejo campaign supports equal rights for gays and lesbians, including equal rights for same-sex couples. We oppose President Bush's proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages as adults should be treated equally under the law. Any attempt to mandate inequality by Mr. Bush leads the country in the wrong direction.

Marie C. Wilson of the Ms. Foundation recently said: "The most important thing is really having equal rights. It's not about the marriage. It's having the same rights that you would get if you were married." Love and commitment are not exactly in surplus in America and should be encouraged. The main tragedy of marriage, what undermines marriage, is divorce, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago recently said.

We support full equal rights for gays and lesbians. While civil unions move us in the right direction, under current federal and state law they do not afford equal rights. Some 1,049 federal rights go only with marriage. At the state level, a civil union is only recognized in the state where it occurs, while marriage, and all its attendant rights, is recognized in all the states. The only way to ensure full equal rights is to recognize same-sex marriage.

During the U.S. Constitution's 228 years, there have been only 17 amendments, and in each instance (except for Alcohol Prohibition, which was repealed), the amendments extended rights and liberties to Americans, not restrict them. Civil rights were expanded by amendments that ended slavery and guaranteed people of color, young people and women the right to vote. The Federal Marriage Amendment urged by President Bush would be the only one that would single out one class of Americans for discrimination by ensuring that same-sex couples would not be granted the equal protections that marriage brings to American families.

My husband works for a small business, about 20 people maximum, and the insurance the company offers not only would cost over 1/3 of his monthly income, but it would not cover our son due to his "pre-existing condition" (asthma). My question to you is, do you plan to make the limitations for assistance higher? Eliminate "pre-existing conditions," such as asthma? Make it to where agencies that provide assistance not just look at a monthly income, but look at the monthly outgoing?
Senator John Kerry Responds:   

First of all, my health care will expand health insurance to every child in America. We should never leave our children at the whim of employers. I also believe that we must help out small businesses lower the cost of health insurance and my plan will do that by having the federal government pick up the cost of the most expensive health care costs and allow small businesses access to the same health care that members of Congress give themselves. My plan will cut health care costs by up to $1,000, making coverage more available and affordable for your family.

President George Bush Responds:   

We are fortunate in America to have the best health care system in the world, but I believe we must do more to ensure that all Americans have access to quality affordable health care. People like your husband who work in small firms often face difficulties in finding affordable insurance that provides good benefits. One reason for this is that small firms lack the bargaining power that bigger employers have. They and their workers are forced to pay more for health insurance and the coverage isn't always as good as they would like for it to be. So it's no surprise that more than half the uninsured are small business employees and their families.

Small businesses should be able to obtain health insurance at an affordable price, much like large employers and unions do, so they can pass these savings along to their workers. That's why I have proposed legislation to create Association Health Plans (AHPs), giving small business access to better, more affordable coverage by banding together with other small businesses to negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of their employees and their families. Insurance offered through AHPs cannot exclude coverage of a person's pre-existing medical condition for more than six months, so it would have to cover treatment of your son's asthma. And if your husband had insurance coverage prior to going to work with a company that had insurance through an AHP, the pre-existing medical condition would be covered without any six-month waiting period.

In order to make insurance even more affordable to small businesses and individuals, I signed legislation creating health savings accounts (HSAs), which combine affordable major medical insurance with a fully portable account that you can use to pay for everyday medical expenses and to save for future health care needs. Premiums for major medical insurance generally cost thousands of dollars less than standard health insurance coverage and your husband's employer can put the savings into your family's health savings account. That account belongs to you and your husband, not to your employer, and it moves with you from job to job.

If you prefer to own your own insurance coverage rather than having it provided through your husband's employer, you might also benefit from my proposal to create refundable tax credits. These credits of up to $3,000 for a family of four phase out at $60,000 in income. They can be used to buy standard health insurance coverage or to buy high-deductible health insurance and establish an HSA.

As your income rises over the years, you will benefit from my proposed tax deduction of your health insurance premiums and for contributions that you make to your HSA.

To assure that people who buy health coverage outside the employment setting have access to affordable, high quality health coverage, I want to let private, non-profit groups - like civic organizations, charitable associations and religious groups - offer insurance coverage to their members. This will give individual purchasers the ability to buy coverage through an insurance pool formed by an organization they trust, where they can get the full benefit of volume discounts on their healthcare premiums. And I would allow those who live in states where regulations and mandates drive up the cost of health insurance to shop for health insurance across state lines, so that they can find the best health coverage at the most affordable prices.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

The U.S. is the only industrialized country without universal health care. We support a single-payer health care plan that replaces for-profit, investor-owned hospital care and removes the private health insurance industry. This national, single-payer health insurance program would be federally funded and would provide comprehensive benefits to all Americans throughout their lives. Under the current system, billing fraud, large executive salaries and excess profit costs hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Americans pay more than any country for health care, but receive less in services. By cutting this waste, Americans could easily fund a single-payer plan.

Of the many professional health care peer groups that support single-payer care, the Physicians for a National Health Program's proposal, at www.pnhp.org, stands out:

  • Everyone would be included in a single, comprehensive public plan covering all medically necessary services, including acute, rehabilitative and long-term care, mental-health services, dental care, prescription drugs and medical supplies.
  • Everyone would have access to personalized care with a local primary care physician, and free choice of doctors and hospitals. In this universal health care system, patients and doctors retain control of medical decisions, not insurance companies or the government.
  • Health care sellers would stay private, and the health plan would provide for different payment schemes for health-care sellers to minimize disruption. These payment schemes should prevent profit motives from influencing physicians, so no structured incentives could recommend too much or too little care.
  • A transition fund would be established for insurance-company employees whose jobs would be eliminated due to the simplicity of the single-payer system.
  • A focus on prevention as a critical part of health care. A single-payer health plan that includes a prevention focus will help mitigate behaviors (i.e. smoking and consumption of fatty foods) and environmental conditions that increase health problems.
11. PERSONAL: top
When is it appropriate for a leader to change their opinion? Both sides have been accused of flip-flopping on important issues - President Bush on establishing the Dept. of Homeland Security and steel tariffs, Senator Kerry on the Iraq war. But changing opinion due to thoughtful reconsideration ought not to be derided as flip-flopping. Tell us about a time when you had an honest change of opinion on a topic of national importance.
Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

When I first arrived in Washington, DC, one of my first meals was a hot dog. After I discovered what were in hot dogs I never ate another one. I changed my mind. When we get new facts or new information, it is foolish to continue on the same course as if the new information did not exist. The Bush administration has been among the most anti-scientific, anti-fact based administrations we've ever seen. They are willing to amend the facts in government reports in order to justify the policy choices they make. We've seen this with critically important issues like global climate change and the war in Iraq. In truth, facts matter - science matters and we need to seek it out, understand it and make decisions based on it.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

It is important for leaders to tell the truth to the American people. If the leaders get the facts wrong then they should admit it. If leaders form their opinions based on a set of facts and they learn that those facts are wrong, it is appropriate to change their position. American government works best when it works based on trust and honesty.

President George Bush Responds:   
bushPresident Bush declined to answer this question.
The Bush administration has made a big deal of President Bush's Christian faith. Democratic candidate John Kerry is also a Christian. My question for the candidates is how does your faith affect your decision-making for the future of our country? Also, America is based on the separation of church and state. For the candidates, is it conflicting to take a position on issues based on Christianity (such as abortion and gay marriage) when not everyone in America believes in God or Christianity?
President George Bush Responds:   

I have a great respect for people of all beliefs, and I am proud to live in a Nation that welcomes and respects people of diverse philosophies and backgrounds. My faith has made a big difference in both my personal life and my public life. As President, I make decisions based on what I think is best for the country. However, my faith is an integral part of my life, and I cannot separate my faith from who I am as a person.

I support the separation of church and state, but I do not believe our Founders intended for the State to discriminate against the church and banish faith from the public square. Our Nation was based on founding principles; the decisions I make as a leader are based on these principles and not my personal faith. Marriage, for example, has been the foundation of our society and of societies and cultures throughout history -- and it has always been defined as the union between a man and a woman. I believe that the future of marriage in America should be decided through the democratic process, rather than by the court orders of a few.

I also believe government should not fear faith, but welcome faith and utilize America's "armies of compassion" as they continue to transform lives. My Faith-Based and Community Initiative levels the playing field in the Federal grants process for religious organizations. I signed a law reaffirming "one Nation under God" in our Pledge and "In God we trust" as our Motto. And I support the Equal Access Act which allow religious organizations to hold voluntary meetings on public property - such as schools, because denying them that right would be unconstitutional.

Mr. Ralph Nader Responds:   

When President Bush starts talking about doing the Lord's work, when he starts taking about appealing for strength to a higher Father than his father, when he starts talking about all the quotations for the last two years that the press has reported, about his references to Providence, we are dealing here with a messianic militarist. A messianic militarist under our constitutional structure is an unstable officeholder. Talk about the separation of church and state. It is not separated at all in Bush's brain and this is extremely disturbing. We want him to make decisions as a secular president.

The whole process of how Bush made this decision to go to war in Iraq without informing Secretary of State Powell, etcetera, indicates that he has got some psychological impulse that is driving - whether it is revenge for his father or whatever or more likely a combination of distraction from domestic necessities which is the greatest beneficial fallout from the war for him politically. The danger of injecting God into the Iraq war is further angering a Muslim world that already distrusts U.S. policies and motives. Anybody with a stable approach to this would keep his mouth shut.

The continually weakening separation between church and state can also be seen in the two parties pressing for or allowing faith-based government funding. Liberals have become increasingly estranged from demands that their party incorporate these subjects as part of what it stands for. They have settled for the Democrats' saying or doing the right things on the social and cultural issues such as choice, gay and lesbian rights, church-state separation and Social Security. When considered against the deterioration of standards of living, access to justice and the dwindling power of the people vs. giant corporations, the party's offerings are grossly insufficient.

Senator John Kerry Responds:   

Teresa Heinz Kerry and I are practicing and believing Catholics. If you're a person of faith as I am, faith is your guidepost, your moral compass - the sustaining force in everything you do. God's work must truly be our own and the job of a leader is to convey to people that what we do does not speak for one particular belief but bring people together around a set of values that we share as a nation.



Note: These are posted in the order we received them from the candidates.

Senator John Kerry's Rebuttal:

Thank you again to the New Voters Project Presidential Youth Debate and to Anthony Tedesco, for this opportunity to debate issues of concern to young Americans. Your questions raised important concerns about the future - your future - and where we are headed as a society and as a nation. Let me briefly respond to three areas where President Bush's plans - and his responses to your questions - fall particularly short.


George Bush has had four years to do something - anything - about our nation's health care problem. He has done nothing, and now he's asking for another four years to make the same wrong choices for America. The few plans the president has described for you would make health care more expensive for most Americans. His proposal to expand Associated Health Plans would increase premiums for four out of five small businesses, and his plan to expand Health Savings Accounts would increase both costs and the number of uninsured. My plan will provide relief for small businesses who provide workers health care.   It will allow small businesses to buy into the same health care plans as members of Congress, allowing them access to the same prices available to big groups, and give small businesses tax credits to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of employees' premiums.


Social Security is the one and only piece of our retirement system that is rock-solid guarantee and not subject to the ups and downs of the market. No one had to worry that a bubble or Enron would hurt their Social Security benefits - and that is the way it should stay. That doesn't mean, however, that we can't do more to make sure that young people can invest in the market and save for their future. I would be supportive of making it easier for middle-class Americans to save as part of an overall retirement security solution. But it is critical that such individual investment accounts be in addition and on-top of Social Security, and not used as an excuse to carve up and privatize Social Security like President Bush wants to do.


The President has made the wrong choices in the war on terror. Instead of using U.S. forces to capture Osama bin Laden the President outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who let bin Laden slip away. He diverted our focus and forces from the hunt for those responsible for September 11th in order to invade Iraq. President Bush still has no comprehensive or long-term strategy for victory. And his go-it-alone approach to foreign policy has cost us the support of other nations - support that we need to defeat an enemy that is hidden in countries across the world

President George Bush's Rebuttal:

Because of the leadership of my Administration, America is safer and stronger today. My opponent has offered only a litany of complaints, I have offered a forward-looking agenda of comprehensive policies to build on the progress we have made and bring greater security and prosperity to Americans.

I have laid out a plan to save Social Security for today's retirees, and to strengthen it for generations to come. Yet Senator Kerry has failed to provide any plan to protect Social Security. I have a comprehensive approach to health care. My plan includes encouraging the use of health savings accounts, and the passage of association health plans and medical liability reform. My plan is to significantly cut costs, through the use of health IT to give people more affordable choices, and to provide better control over their health care options. My opponent offers only a government-run health care plan which would be the largest expansion of government health care ever. I intend to leave health care decisions to patients and their doctors, not to the government.

One of my most important priorities is keeping Americans safe, and I am committed to winning the war on terror and bringing terrorists to justice. With the help of a coalition of over 30 countries, we have successfully deposed two brutal regimes and have captured or killed 75 percent of the al Qaeda leadership. Free and democratic elections were recently held in Afghanistan, for which more than 10 million people - 4.1 million of them women - were registered to vote. Significantly, the first person to cast a ballot was a 19-year-old woman. This is tremendous progress, and we will continue our efforts to encourage the march of freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other parts of the world.

My opponent has talked about how he believes terrorism could be reduced to a nuisance, comparing it to prostitution and illegal gambling. This is a dangerous attitude to apply to the war on terror. Senator Kerry does not have the post-9/11 mentality required to defeat the global war against terror, which is perhaps why he voted against the homeland security bill that has better aligned our assets and resources.

I believe that we need to make sure that our courageous troops have every resource available to achieve victory. The $87 billion supplemental defense spending bill has provided our troops with the vital equipment and supplies they need to defeat the enemy - yet my opponent voted against supporting our troops in harms way.

I am a strong supporter of an all-volunteer military so I have worked to ease the burden on our brave men and women of the National Guard who are answering the call of duty, fighting the forces of terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helping Americans contend with natural disasters here at home. We are minimizing the number of extensions and repeat mobilizations by cross-training and retraining some of our forces. And to help Guard and Reserve forces and their families contend with their situations, we have expanded health care benefits. I have also called on Congress to increase the monthly educational benefit for Guard and Reserve forces mobilized for more than 90 days in the war on terror.

Strong and decisive leadership is needed to keep our Nation on the right path for the future. I am optimistic about the future of this country, because I know your generation is already making great contributions for America's safety and prosperity. I thank you for the opportunity to share my vision with you, and I ask for your vote so that together we can make America safer, stronger, and better.

Mr. Ralph Nader's Rebuttal:

The young people of America ask better questions than the professional press. Young people rightly show concern for the future of this country, and they expect straight answers from those who promise to lead this country.

I am confident that the young people reading this debate discern the differences between candidates. One candidate in the first sentence of his opening statement failed the basic test of subject-verb agreement, the other panders to stereotypes of youth with short, simplistic answers that don't answer the questions of how.

Our democratic system is broken, our electoral functions need rebuilding. We can no longer trust the two parties to do it for us. The future of our country belongs to the youth, yet the Democrats and Republicans have failed consistently to draw young people to the table in any meaningful manner. More than 13 million students attend college in the United States, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, yet only 350,000 of them actively participate in young Republican or Democrat clubs on campus. Less than 5 percent of college students think enough of either party to volunteer for them. Those are hardly inspiring numbers.

We invite you to look beyond what the two party duopoly offers you, and challenge yourself and your country. Raise the expectation levels for the democracy you want to build. Check our website www.votenader.org . Explore Jim Hightower's If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They Would Have Given Us Candidates or www.hightowerlowdown.org. A little known book by the sage of Washington, D.C. (the non-federal part), Sam Smith, titled "Why Bother? Getting a Life in a Locked Down Land" is all about civic motivation, but it's not set in a lecturing style. He takes the reader all over the place with all kinds of inserted wisdom from all kinds of agitators. This paperback is full of inspiration to stiffen backbones and demand more from our leading politicians, up to their ears in corporate cash, when they tell us so many condescending words "shut up and shop." Sam Smith gives us a remarkably concise message from Mahatma Gandhi, the great of Indian independence through non-violent action. These are what Gandhi called the "seven deadly social sins":

  • politics without principle,
  • wealth without work,
  • commerce without morality,
  • pleasure without conscience,
  • education without character,
  • science without humanity,
  • worship without sacrifice.

And I would add to this list "belief without thought" and "respect without self-respect." Expressing disdain for politics and parties is characteristic of younger generations everywhere. I hope to be correct in thinking that a doubtful mind is an open mind - open to the touch of hope, graced with the breezes of change toward horizons that offer the fulfillment of life's possibilities for the people's of our finites and beautiful planet.

On behalf of our nation's youth, we thank the following partners for helping us spread the word: