As the Arab spring captivated the world last year, the US was criticized for being slow and hesitant about supporting what were often youth-led revolutions.
Now the State Department hopes to improve the US record by focusing on ways to engage the world's youth in political and social change, and Ronan Farrow, 22, is a key force in fashioning the new initiative. For Mr. Farrow, the son of actress Mia Farrow and director Woody Allen, America's stake in heeding the world's youth and helping them keep their passion for involvement alive is one of the seminal lessons of 2011.
"We recognize now that as a cornerstone of our national security interest around the world, we need to be listening to young people in new ways and empowering them to be peaceful, nonviolent [political] participants," says Farrow, a special adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on global youth issues. "That is a significant change in the way we do business."
America's youth foreign policy will be built on two pillars: young entrepreneurs participating in global markets, and programs encouraging peaceful political and civic participation. Secretary Clinton will lay out the specifics in a major speech later this year, but sustaining the interest of booming youth populations in their countries' progress is an immediate priority.
"Secretary Clinton makes the observation a lot that young revolutionaries are not the ones that come to lead their countries. That's a very important truth," says Farrow, who earned a law degree from Yale when he was 19 and recently was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University for 2012.
As we watch – in some cases apprehensively – for the outcome of these youth-driven revolutions, that will be the important transition, he adds. "Can young revolutionaries make the leap to building institutions and participating within government systems?"
– David Grant, Washington
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