crisp's presidential youth debate


I want to build a bridge to the 21st century, to the era of greatest possibility ever known. And all I need to know about you is whether you believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, and whether you are willing to show up and do your job tomorrow. If you are, you are part of my America.

I am glad that we are on the right track and that our growing economy is giving Americans greater opportunity to make the most of their lives. I am glad that there are 10.7 million more people working than there were four years ago. Unemployment is the lowest it has been in 7 years. But I'm not glad that there are so many who still want to work who don't have jobs. And I won't rest until they do.

We must keep our economy growing, so we can create even more good jobs. That means balancing the budget -- without undermining Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment. It means targeted tax cuts for families.

Improving education and opening the doors to college is the single most important thing we can do over the next four years. Nothing will be more important to the strength of our economy. Nothing will be more important to the strength of our children and families. If we do nothing else, we must give every American access to the best education in the world.

At its heart, education is about our values. For 220 years, opportunity has defined the American dream. And at each stage of our history, we have expanded educational opportunity to meet the needs of our country. The G.I. Bill, and the creation of student loans. The creation of Head Start, and the movement to raise school standards. To meet the challenges of a global, highly-skilled, information economy, we must renew our educational system once again -- not to give a guarantee of the good life, but to give everyone a chance, if they're willing to work for it.

We have to ask ourselves whether we are going to build a bridge to the future together, a bridge that everybody can walk across. Are we going to say, "We're all in this together. We're going to go forward together." Or are we going to say, "You're on your own. I hope you do well. I'll come back and see you every now and then."

I will continue to challenge all Americans to join with me in our simple, but profound strategy: to expand opportunity for all, to demand responsibility from all, and to build a stronger American community -- to make that America's basic bargain as we move into the 21st century with the American dream alive for every person who is willing to work for it.

We do not have a person to waste.

While Jonathan's problem is essentially a local problem, there are enough Jonathan's in major urban areas around the country to force widespread attention on how to solve it. A large part of the problem is ensuring there is some positive transition between prison and society for young offenders. New York City has run a pilot program that shortens sentences, heightens discipline, and provides training for post-prison employment. In Jonathan's case no structure exists to impose the discipline and training he needs to become a functioning part of the community rather than a continuing threat to it. But L.A. and the state of California should develop structured programs which would allow ex-convicts like Jonathan to be given a chance to prove themselves. I would be foolish to imply that I knew exactly how to frame that sort of program, but I know that myriad people in California have been looking at the problem and may have even come up with solutions to it.