Ryan Warner: This is Colorado Matters from CPR News. I'm Ryan Warner. If history is any indication, we know one thing Donald Trump will talk about in his inaugural address tomorrow, the impact of governments on America's young people.
President Ronald Reagan: We must act now to protect future generations from government's desire to spend its citizens money and tax them into servitude when the bills come due.
President George H.W. Bush: Our children are watching in schools throughout our great land and to them I say, thank you for watching democracy's big day.
President William Clinton: I challenge a new generation of young Americans to a season of service; to act on your idealism.
President George W. Bush: If we do not turn the hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine their idealism.
President Barack Obama: We will respond to the threat of climate change knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.
RW: Young people are often talked about in politics, but less often speak for themselves. That is not the case today. We are live in the CPR Performance Studio and have gathered together high school students from across the state, Denver, Grand Junction, Jefferson County, and the rural district of Strasburg on the plains. How do they see their role as citizens and what do they want from the Trump Administration? I want to welcome you all to the show. Raise your hand if you're missing class because of this today. You're all missing class. We're very grateful for your time.
I want to start with Cody Wilson and Bryce Hopwood who go to the same school in Strasburg, east of Denver. You have different views about this new president, but you get together regularly for a school club to talk politics. I think you're accomplishing something a lot of adults don't want to right now, engaging with people you might disagree with. What advice, Cody, would you have for people who maybe are open to those conversations, but don't know where to start?
Cody Wilson: I would say that you just shouldn't, I mean, people are going to have different ideas than you, so you kind of just have to accept that sometimes, that you're not going to change their ideas and just let them know why you think what you think and then let them think what they think.
RW: The idea of engaging in conversation without the agenda of changing a mind?
CW: Right, because sometimes people just aren't up to changing their mind.
RW: Would you agree with that, Bryce?
Bryce Hopwood: Yeah, through our discussions and the political club and diversity, we all tend to listen to each other very well and then discuss why we feel these ways and what exactly makes us feel like that and just all the different topics.
RW: Does your blood boil sometimes, though?
CW: Oh, definitely.
RW: Definitely, on what topics? What has been most controversial in the politics club?
CW: One that we talk about a lot is abortion, and I think that gets to a lot of people.
RW: And one that the nation for sure has been grappling with. Bryce, anything else on the list?
BH: Definitely abortion and then just the political candidates like Hilary Clinton and Trump. There's a lot of disagreements within the school about that.
RW: So there was a lot of talk of the election in the politics club, understandably?
CW: Yeah, that was part of the reason it was started, so that definitely helped.
RW: Was it started because of this past election?
CW: Yeah, we just started it this year.
RW: Well, with that as our frame, having an open conversation here, I want to know what your biggest hopes and concerns are about the incoming Trump Administration. Maybe we can start with hopes, and Mackenzie Younker, I know that you're a supporter of Donald Trump and you got into politics in the past year or so. You're in our Grand Junction Studio, actually.
Mackenzie Younker: Yes, that's correct.
RW: Yeah, what do you hope to see in the next four years?
MY: Well, based on my religious background, I want someone who protects my faith, supports gun law, and is hard working. I would like to see affordable healthcare and just someone who will get the job done.
RW: All right, let's explore one of those issues, so your faith. Talk more about how that influences your support for Donald Trump, whom some don't see as a man of faith.
MY: I just want someone who understands your religious background and just base it off of my beliefs ... Sorry, it's echoing.
RW: Well, you've got an echo in your headphones, so that's got to be pretty unnerving.
RW: We'll try to fix that, Mackenzie, and come back to you because I know how hard it can be to talk when you hear yourself in the background. Who wants to chime in for hopes or concerns about this incoming administration? Cody Wilson.
CW: I just hope that unlike previous politicians, that he actually follows through with some of the things he said he's going to do because usually that's just kind of talk to get elected and then they do whatever they want once they get elected. So I hope he follows through with some of that.
RW: Okay, is there a particular promise or commitment that you'd be watching?
CW: Just looking at mainly immigration, probably, just controlling our borders.
RW: Immigration, what concerns you on that subject?
CW: I think our borders are way too soft and I think we need to control them and not let people come in illegally so easy and make that more difficult.
RW: What makes you say that?
CW: Well, just seeing how our country works around immigration, that it's very hard for us to deport people once they're here. So I think the initial problem could be solved if we just stop them from coming in illegally all together.
RW: Yet there have been record deportations under the Obama Administration. Diaraye Diallo who is at DSST Cole High School in Metro Denver, you're raising your hand to jump in I think on immigration.
Diaraye Diallo: Cody, what exactly is your issue with immigrants?
CW: I have no issue with immigrants, I have issues with illegal immigrants because they are breaking the law to get into the country and we have no record of them and no idea what their intentions are once they're here.
DD: Okay, yeah, I get that, but the United States was founded on immigration.
CW: Right, and immigration is fine, but you should do it legally.
DD: When Europeans came here, they didn't do it legally. They came here and ...
RW: Well, many of them did for sure.
DD: Yeah, I agree with that but also with Native Americans that led to massacre and blood being spread, so you have to consider that when immigrants come here, they're coming here to ensure their livelihood and ensure the lives of people. For example, African immigrants probably progress far more in colleges than the regular American student. Immigrants are adding culture to our society and bringing in great impact and they add qualities that make America different and make America special.
RW: Can you tell us a little bit about your own background and your family's background, Diaraye? What viewpoint do you come from? What experience do you come from?
DD: Okay, my mother came here from [unclear] which is in West Africa in 2000 and I was, with my older brother and my sister, and I was born in 2001. My mom came here as an immigrant and my siblings came here as immigrants, and they worked hard to get to the positions where they are. For example, my sister is going to UPenn, which is an Ivy League School. My brother works for the Center of Disease Control. My mom has an Associate's Degree in Nursing and she's an immigrant.
RW: Cody, what do you make of what you hear there, anything?
CW: What I'm hearing is they went through the process and did it legally and good for them. They achieved great things because of it.
DD: Okay, but also you have to consider the livelihoods and where people are coming from when they do it illegally. When people come here, they're coming here to ensure their livelihoods and the lives of their kids and themselves.
RW: So it sounds like for both of you immigration is going to be something to watch closely in a Trump Administration, certainly discussed a lot on the campaign trail. Who else would like to share concerns and hopes for this next administration? How about you, Emily Leo?
Emily Leo: I think the biggest thing that I hope for is that in light of the election and all of this political tension, that people can still come together and try to understand each other because I've noticed even in the classroom atmosphere, in my home, it gets really heated and we almost forget that we are friends in the first place or family in the first place. I think it's wonderful to have that political discourse, we just need to realize that there is a time and a place and we have to put it all in perspective.
RW: You come from an interesting perspective yourself, Emily, because I think half of your family supported Trump and half did not.
EL: That's right.
RW: Okay, so some of what you're talking about is harmony in your own home. Was there harmony in your home during the election?
EL: There was some road blocks for sure. Sometimes making dinner, we'd get into it, but I think at the end of the day we always came to terms and recognized that our relationship as family matters more than the differences we have politically. We can try to empathize with each other, but we can still have our differences.
RW: But your concern is about that kind of cohesion in the next four years for the country?
EL: Right, I hope people can realize that we all cohabitate and we have to live together, so maybe to kind of discard that violence that comes with it.
RW: That violence. I want to try to go back to our Grand Junction studio and hear a bit more from Mackenzie Younker, and open the floor as well to a young man named Juan Martinez Flores, there.
So Mackenzie Younker, I think we fixed the issue, and I want to have you expand just a bit more on your hopes for the Trump administration. So you'd cited faith, you cited gun laws. Care to expound a bit?
MY: Well I would also like to see more affordable healthcare. My family, we pay for our own insurance, and it's double the normal. And I've seen how Obamacare has hurt businesses.
RW: All right, so you think-
MY: My dad-
RW: Obamacare is part of the problem. Your father, tell us about him.
MY: Well we own our own business. He's a chiropractor, and I've seen how Obamacare has hurt his business, because his patients have to pay more out of their own pocket, and their insurance has gone up, and it makes them go to less appointments, and it hurts the business.
RW: I'll say that more people, for sure, in Colorado have insurance, under the Affordable Care Act. According to the federal government, the uninsured rate has fallen by 49% since it went into effect in 2010. But you're talking about the quality of that coverage. And I would like to open the floor to Juan Martinez Flores, who's also in Grand Junction. Hi, Juan.
Juan Martinez Flores: Hi, Ryan.
RW: So, hopes, concerns, for a Trump administration?
JMF: Well I would like to go back to the immigration talk.
RW: Okay, that's going to be an issue you'll watch in the next four years?
JMF: Oh, definitely.
RW: Go ahead, what's on your mind?
JMF: Okay, so I actually came illegally into the country for the first five years of my life, went through citizenship, and now I am a DACA student. And it really bothers me when people talk about how illegal immigrants bring problems. Most of immigrants come in, they work, and have a better future for their kids. And we wouldn't have to come in illegally if there was a better immigration system, a faster process. Our home countries aren't very well. There's violence, and there's drugs, and parents just want to get their kids away from that.
RW: So you're under DACA, you mentioned, that temporary legal status for those brought to the United States as children, presumably through really no control of their own. How is that? Is there a stigma attached to that?
JMF: Yeah, a little bit. You can't do things that other people can do. You can't leave the country. You have to stay in the country. I haven't seen my grandparents in 12 years.
RW: What affect does that have on you?
JMF: It's devastating, because they're part of my family, immediate family, and I can't see them.
RW: Talk to me about how you feel the immigration issue has been treated throughout the campaign and now as the inauguration nears.
JMF: I think it's been treated very poorly by Trump. He's racially slurred immigrants, he's called Mexicans rapists, and all kinds of other things, which really affects the race. And he hasn't really dealt with it pretty well.
RW: Mackenzie, who is sitting right next to Juan, what do you think when you hear someone who takes some offense at what they have heard from Donald Trump?
MY: I agree a lot, and understand where he's coming from, and I don't necessarily agree with the things he's said, but I would just like a president who is hardworking and wants to get the job done. But I think his-
RW: And so that, to you, feels more important than how he talks, you're saying?
MY: Right, I want it pay off for everyone, even, I'll put aside his rude comments to know that he's going to make a difference and help. But I wouldn't agree with the things he said.
RW: Why don't we take a short break? There's lots more to talk about, and we haven't heard from all of you. We are speaking with high school students from across Colorado, across the political spectrum, about what is in store for the next four years. We're also going to talk about how they see their role as citizens in a democracy. This is Colorado Matters, live from our performance studio, on CPR News.
You're back with Colorado Matters from CPR News. I'm Ryan Warner. We are live in the CPR Performance Studio with a round table of young people, all high school students, from all across the state, and from different political viewpoints, talking about what they want from the next administration. And a little later we'll talk about how they see their role in the democracy.
It strikes me, guys, that two big issues adults think are important for young people are, one, if you plan on going to college, or trade school, can you afford it? And two, will there be a job waiting for you afterwards? The youngest of you are 15, the oldest 18. Do those two issues weigh on you? Derek Honeyman from Pomona High School.
DH: Yeah, the whole student loan, and the finding a job after college is definitely one of the biggest things that kind of keeps me up at night. I would say it's just thinking about the amount of debt that I'm going to have to go into, and the amount of money that I'm going to be having to deal with over the next four years after I graduate, just to attend a four year college and get an education. And then there'd be the possibility of there not being a job once I graduate college, and me having to move back into my parents' basement, or one of those. It's really scary, and it's not like old times where you could graduate college with minimal amounts of debt. Now you're talking about tens of thousands of dollars.
RW: You have played this through in your mind to the end. You're already picturing yourself living back in your parents' house, in your mind.
DH: I don't want to.
RW: Okay, so this worries you, and I imagine it's something that you'll keep your eye on, in the next four years?
DH: Definitely, yes.
RW: What would you like to see from a Trump administration, in this regard?
DH: I'd like to see just stability, I would say. If you make a promise, to keep on it, and not to make a promise and then backtrack on it. I mean, everybody has seen Trump's Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos. Definitely it's something that's kind of scary, especially because I'm going to be dealing with the Department of Education over the next four years, with the FAFSA, the Free Application For Student Aid. So stability would be my number one thing that I want.
RW: I want to say that Trump talked a bit, in the campaign, about the high cost of higher education.
President-Elect Donald Trump: Costs are going up mammothly, much more so than other businesses and industries.
RW: He wants to cap payments for federal student loans at 12.5% of a person's income. That's a bit higher than now, but he wants to forgive the debt sooner in a young person's career, after 15 years. It's currently 20.
Bella Martinez, we haven't heard from you. Does the question of college, or what kinds of jobs are available, weigh on you? Do you give that much thought?
Bella Martinez: It kind of weighs on me, but at the same time, I'm not too worried about it, because I am a sophomore in school, so it hasn't affected me that much. But I do ponder about it sometimes, and be like, "Well, what colleges am I going to go to?" My mom's already hounding me to get out of her house, like I don't want to move back in and then bear her the burden. So it kind of weighs on me, and kind of doesn't. So I'm torn in half about it.
RW: You're torn in half. What issue would say is top of mind for the next four years?
BM: I think money, because like college is really expensive, and I would want to pay it all myself instead of having my mom pay for it, or something. I'd at least try to get a scholarship. Like I don't want to have to look to my parents in order to get money for my education.
RW: Who wants to weigh in on these particular issues? Go ahead, Cody Wilson from Strasburg High School, on the plains.
CW: So I think part of the problem here is that everyone thinks you have to go to college to get a good career or good job and that leaves a lot of people just going straight to college and not so many going into trade skills, which means you don't really have that much room for that and it drives cost up. I think public opinion really drove this, so I think if we kind of pushed that you can still get a job without going straight into college, you can do things. College isn't the only step in your life.
RW: What will be your path do you think, Cody, college or no college?
CW: I personally would like to go to college, but I mean it's not going to be the end of the world if I don't.
RW: What do you want to be when you grow up? I'm sorry, that's such a cliché question, Cody.
CW: I would like to go into Astrophysics, but it's a very small field.
RW: A college required one. Emily Leo from Stanley Lake High School.
EL: I understand a lot of what Cody is saying about there being a decrease in demand or at least supply into the trades, but I think the biggest thing that I've noticed with my peers, myself, is there's a sense of discouragement when it comes to applying for colleges because of the fact that most young people have at least some motivation to go to college, but the effect that loans can have, maybe majoring in something that doesn't have much of a demand for jobs once you get out of school. I think the biggest thing is that it's discouraging to go to college.
RW: I think what I hear you saying, Emily, is that you might choose a field in college that speaks to your heart, to your soul, and then you think, yes, but that's a lot of debt for not enough income. So college becomes a real value proposition.
RW: I'd like to throw this question of affordability and future employment to our Grand Junction guests, so Juan Martinez Flores, weigh in on this for us.
JMF: Well, I see what Trump's saying raising the percentage, but I feel he didn't connect with us, young people, like Bernie Sanders did. I think Bernie Sanders won the whole educational part of the debates in the presidential candidacy, but I think Trump might actually help with the college debt.
RW: You know, the polls bear that out it seemed and so did the exit polls by the way. It seemed that Trump garnered only about a third of the youth votes. I think that was specific to millennials, so just a third. Mackenzie Younker, this question of college and future employment.
MY: Well, it scares me. I don't want to be paying off my student loans when my kids are going off to college some day. So I think it's taught me that I just need to plan ahead for my future and know what I'm going to do to secure my future.
RW: What will that look like do you think? How are you going to take those steps?
MY: Well, I'd like to have my school pay off now so I can look at scholarships and know what I'm going to go into so I'm not getting two degrees and spending more money.
RW: Derek Honeyman from Pomona High School.
Derrick Honeyman: I think one of the big reasons why Bernie Sanders and then eventually Hilary Clinton kind of garnered the youth vote is really because they had detailed plans as to what they wanted for the college loan and all that kind of stuff, the education system, whereas Donald Trump, he has the 12.5% capping and then forgiving loans at earlier times, but other than that, he doesn't really have a set plan of what he wants to do with it. I think that's kind of a big reason why a lot of young people got turned away from him and kind of turned towards Bernie and Hilary, is that they had set plans. They showed what they wanted to do with the college affordability.
RW: You're listening to Colorado Matters. I'm Ryan Warner and we're in the CPR Performance Studio getting the views of young people ahead of tomorrow's inauguration of Donald Trump, what they envision for the next four years. Now to the topic of how they see themselves as citizens. I want to say that in President Obama's farewell address, he said "The most important office for anyone in a democracy is citizen." It made me wonder what you think you can contribute to this country and whether you feel that you have an obligation to it. Bryce Hopwood from Strasburg High School, how do you answer that?
BH: Can you come back to me?
RW: I can certainly come back to you. I'd be happy to. Who'd like to jump in? Diaraye Diallo.
DD: Okay, for me, this past election I guess confirmed my reality within this world because like Mackenzie from Grand Junction was saying, we should ignore everything that Trump, the comments President Elect Trump has made about the citizens within this country, but it has confirmed my everyday fears and struggles being a black woman, being a daughter of immigrants, being Muslim. He's pretty much saying I don't belong, with everything that defines me, doesn't belong. It's scary considering if my voice and the things that I need within society is actually going to be cared about.
RW: Go ahead, Bryce Hopwood.
BH: Going off of what she had just said, with all of Donald Trump's remarks and all the times he pointed out the minorities and what the country and the future is going to become, because I have little brothers and I know that every kid wants to be president when they grow up. And they're going to have him to look up to, and that's kind of a problem when he's saying these things about minorities and women. It really makes me wonder what the future generation will think of me when I become what I want to do.
RW: What is your obligation to the country, Bryce? What do you contribute to it?
BH: I usually try my best to keep the peace and make sure that everybody does feel important because everybody is a person. No matter what minority, what religion you are, what race you are, you're still a part of America. That's who we are and that's the people who built it. That's why we're so special.
RW: Derrick Honeyman.
DH: I think one of our biggest obligations as citizens is just to be involved in the political process, to not just kind of play it off as just oh, this thing, I don't like politics. I think everybody should get involved and they should care about politics, whether it be the president or your local mayor. You should get involved and be interested in it. It's important.
RW: Are you eager to vote?
DH: I am, yes.
RW: Is that true for all of you?
RW: Are you eager to vote? A lot of nodding heads, all right. How about Juan or Mackenzie, can I ask what you see your role is as citizens? Juan, do you want to take it first?
JMF: Sure. I see that my role as a citizen is to improve myself, improve my life, my life status right now, and help out the most needed in the country right now.
RW: Who is that and how?
JMF: There's a lot of homeless people right now. There's a lot of jobs going away, so I feel we have to find a way to create jobs. Me, being a business owner, I want to own a restaurant, so creating jobs would be one of my ways to help.
RW: You're a business owner? Tell us more about that.
JMF: Well I want to be a business owner.
RW: You want to be, I see. You want to own a restaurant?
RW: What kind of restaurant?
JMF: Mexican food.
RW: Mexican food. You say that jobs are on your mind, unemployment is on your mind. I want to say that it's 4.2 statewide, but you're in a place, Mesa County, where it's 6%, so it's that question of evenness. Mackenzie Younker, how do you see your role as citizen in the democracy?
MY: Well, going back to what you said earlier about some of Trump's comments, I would say that, well, I would like to see me be a teacher some day, and it hurts me to see what he said, but I would just want to always encourage people to keep pushing and get past those hard times and that there is a way if you're hard working enough and dedicated.
RW: When you say hard working enough, what do you mean? Do you think that people who are struggling are not working hard enough?
MY: No, definitely not. Not in that way. I would just, people have different backgrounds. Some are harder than others and you just got to keep on pushing through in believing in yourself.
RW: Diaraye Diallo?
DD: I agree with her in the sense that we need to push on and persevere throughout all the comments that have been made, but I don't think we need to justify that by ignoring the comments he's made about all types of people throughout this country, pretty much everybody who's not the privileged class. The comments he's made is not considering my lifestyle, my peers' lifestyle, and everybody I go to school with. I feel like we can't ignore the things that he says about people just because oh, I feel like the things he says about people dehumanizes and demeans people.
RW: It sounds like your role as you see it, Diaraye, is to speak up.
RW: Okay, Cody Wilson from Strasburg and then I’d like to hear from Bella Martinez.
CW: So, I was actually going to kind of hit on what you just said that I think our biggest role as a citizen is to stand up for what you believe in and everything that you, all the rights that you are given. It’s your job to stand up for those and to show everyone how you believe in it.
BM: I would like to agree with what Diaraye said because like looking at how it affected like students in my organization that I work at, they were furious, they were legitimately like going around the office playing songs and like outraged by the way that it was prone to be. And I took it into like, like into my hands and was like let’s like start a meet-up and we did and I was hosting it and there was a lot of people who had came and a lot of people of youth and youth of color. And it was really, really cool to see them all just come together. That’s what I want to see more of and if I have to like host events then I will. I’ll do whatever I can to make sure that everybody comes together because there were even like small kids like four or five who were coming in and like saying what they had to say. And we also broke off into small groups and were saying like in the action group, the one that I was in, they were saying how they like what they wanted to see in the future and the plans that they have for their future like events, what they wanted to do in the future and like how –
BM: Yeah, organizing.
RW: I want to wrap up just briefly. I think with this question I think a lot of people assume that young people are experts in social media. Now whether you use it personally or not I’m curious what you think of the way that Donald Trump uses social media because he has used Twitter as a very powerful platform. All of you are raising your hands, okay, big issue here. Round Robin, Bryce Hopwood.
BH: I think the way he uses his Twitter account is extremely unprofessional for a President and he shouldn’t be doing that. And I know he’s not like a president that we’ve ever had. Obviously, he’s not a politician but that doesn’t give him the right to put people down.
RW: Emily Leo?
EL: I think it’s disheartening to have a political figure like that take advantage of social media as any other person would because like Bryce said it’s unprofessional and it’s uncanny and crass in most cases.
RW: Mackenzie Younker as a Trump supporter, how do you answer this?
MY: It’s really upsetting, especially, because I agree with his beliefs but I find it so offending and unclassy and not professional and it’s really upsetting actually.
RW: Derrick Honeyman?
DH: When you’re a presidential candidate you can say those things on Twitter and the repercussions aren’t going to be as extreme but when you’re the President of the United States and you’re saying these things on Twitter you have the possibility to start a war. And, I mean, I don’t think he really understands that, the implications, of what happens when he tweets.
RW: Cody Wilson?
CW: I would like to bring up that he has the right to say everything that he says even if we disagree with it and since it’s his personal account he can say what he wants on there and whether I agree with it or not I think he has the right to say it. And, clearly, I would think the consequence that he would thread would be losing voters and that didn’t happen so –
DH: I think he has the right to say it, obviously, but there’s a more professional way to it and when you attack people on your Twitter account, when you’re the president or president-elect right now of the United States it doesn’t look professional.
RW: I’m going to have to stop the discussion there. We’ve hit a nerve for sure. I want to thank you all for being with us. Lovely to have you. Thank you for getting out of class which I’m sure was a huge burden just kidding. High school students from Denver Grand Junction, Jefferson County, and Strasburg, Colorado who indeed were very generous with their time and left class to join us today ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration. Live inaugural coverage from NPR and member stations across the country starts tomorrow morning at eight. This is Colorado Matters from CPR News.