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Introducing Carson's Corner

Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement, highlights the impact that young Americans are having on debates in Washington.

Here at the Office of Public Engagement, we meet individuals every day who are doing some pretty extraordinary work within their communities.

While we would like to share some of our work with these folks, we also value the opportunity to learn from their experiences. In turn, we try to highlight these lessons with you through Twitter and our blog so that you might chime in and participate in the conversation. That is why I'm proud to introduce Carson's Corner, a new column where we can take a moment to reflect together on some of the issues we brought into focus throughout the week. I can't think of a better way to kick off this new feature than by checking in with young Americans.

Ronnie Cho is an Associate Director in OPE, as well as the White House Liaison to Young Americans. Ronnie works to make sure the issues important to young people are brought to the forefront of the White House. This summer has been particularly exciting for this community. Earlier this month they used their voices to prevent Congress from doubling interest rates on student loans. Across the country young people made their voices heard through tweets, Facebook posts and through emails and conversations with friends and neighbors. America’s youth are among the most dynamic and impactful leaders in the country.  Their leadership was illustrated yet again this week with the XIX International Aids Conference and the Campus Progress National Conference.

President Barack Obama delivers a statement on college affordability (June 21, 2012)

President Barack Obama, with Education Secretary Arne Duncan, delivers a statement on college affordability and interest rates on student loans, in the East Room of the White House, June 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Ronnie Cho at the 2012 International AIDS Conference

Ronnie Cho, an Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement, moderates a panel at the 2012 International AIDS Conference. (Photo by the White House Office of Public Engagement)

All week Washington, DC has played host to the XIX International AIDS Conference, with over 20,000 participants in attendance. This is special in its own right, as it is the first time the conference has been held in America in 19 years. On Tuesday afternoon, Ronnie moderated a panel, organized by Advocates for Youth, to discuss the crucial role young people play in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness. As one of the leading adolescent health organizations, Advocates for Youth provides sex education resources for parents and young people alike and raises awareness of HIV/AIDS in the hopes that an AIDS free generation can become a reality.

On Wednesday, we also participated in the Campus Progress National Conference. Campus Progress was instrumental in leading the charge to prevent student loan interest rates from doubling and through programs in activism, journalism, and events, Campus Progress engages and inspires a diverse group of young leaders to take action. Several exciting guests stopped by, like Leader Nancy Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, to talk to the students about the importance of their advocacy on the issues they value, including college affordability and equal rights. Campus Progress played an invaluable role in raising awareness of the student loan interest rate fight by amplifying the message and rallying the troops around the cause.

Often, Ronnie likes to say that the issues we are discussing today are not about 2012, they're about 2112; we should think about questions of civil rights and the environment and education not in terms of what would be the best solution right now, but rather for future generations to come. I am constantly inspired by the ability of such young people to think in these terms and to stand up for their values. I think we can all learn a lesson from these young men and women and stay actively involved in government--they are proof that this work pays off.

Jon Carson is the Director of the Office of Public Engagement.