Make yourselves heard

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Continuing on a cross-country tour of colleges, universities and high schools, Liberal MP for Papineau, Quebec Justin Trudeau visited Wilfrid Laurier University Wednesday afternoon after a morning stop at Western in London. Dressed more like a student than a politician, the charismatic son of Canada’s 15th prime minister spoke to students about the importance of political activism in young people.

Not wanting to make a typical political ‘stump speech,’ Trudeau instead focused on wider issues, encouraging students to take a stand against climate change and poverty among other humanitarian causes.

“For me it’s important that we tackle head-on the kind of cynicism, the kind of disengagement and the kind of polarization that we’re dealing with in politics right now,” said Trudeau. “We need to be better politicians, we need to be better citizens.”

Speaking to a standing-room only crowd in the student leadership centre, Trudeau told youth to find a cause they are passionate about and work to give it a voice. Trudeau told students he wasn’t here to tell them to vote, although he’d like them to. Instead, he insisted students should work through volunteerism to give themselves a voice.

“You need to make yourselves heard,” he said.

Criticizing the pervasive attitude that young people have no interest or stake in politics, Trudeau said students were at the perfect age to get involved because they are all idealists.

“We have to be bold about changing the world. We have to be idealistic about the world we want to build,” he said.

Taking questions from the audience, Trudeau said he would not be running for the Liberal Party of Canada leadership beginning in 2012 and will instead focus on being a “good dad” to his two young children. He did not specifically endorse a candidate for the leadership of the party, preferring to focus on more general social issues, but called interim leader Bob Rae very capable.

Speaking about the increasing debt load and lack of jobs for university grads, the post-secondary critic said government needed to respect the changing place post-secondary education has in society and give more generously to reduce the burden on students.

“I think we have to understand that having a BA now is not a bonus, it’s the required minimum for our job market,” he said.
President of the Young Liberals at WLU, Drew Redden, was excited to host Trudeau, for lunch with the group, as well as the talk.

“He’s extremely supportive of young people,” Redden said. “Young people aren’t the most engaged and I think it’s really important that (politicians) take a level of responsibility too and reach out and help us get engaged.”

Battling against apathy, Trudeau said it was up to young people to help get everyone, from every political stripe, engaged in making the country better.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing is how to get people engaged in looking beyond their own noses,” he said.


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