National event urges young people to “Show Up” for change.

Erik Raaum

A two-day conference was held by the Aspen Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting social problems, in collaboration with NowThis News, a social media-focused news site, to encourage young people to fight for what they believe in.

The conference, called “Aspen Ideas: SHOW UP,” was focused on encouraging young people to participate in politics by featuring talks from athletes, musicians, scholars, and activists from around the country.


Poster for “Aspen Ideas: SHOW UP”

Poster for “Aspen Ideas: SHOW UP”

The Aspen Institute held the event virtually over two nights, each with a video streamed live over YouTube followed by interactive sessions, where listeners could get together with a speaker via video chat and discuss various issues.

The videos emphasized the importance of “showing up” for your community whenever you can.

Generally, this means being active in your community to make a positive change.

During the pandemic, you can still “show up” by going online to be informed about local politics, getting informed, donating time or money, and going to vote.

Jackie Huba, the founder of Drag Out The Vote, which uses drag shows to register and encourage voters, spoke at the event about why it’s crucial we all vote. She said over 100 million eligible voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, and census data shows people under 30 are less likely to vote than any other age group.

NFL receiver Chris Conley was in attendance at the conference and is part of the Get In The Game campaign with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Conley discussed the importance of being politically active. 

 “Voting doesn’t solve everything,” says Conley. “You have years and years of communities that have been neglected, people that have been terrorized [or] disenfranchised. Simple votes and propositions are good, and they’re a start, but they don’t bring complete and total healing.

According to Conley, taking action and having positive discussions will also drive change.

As part of the same interview, WNBA player Candace Parker praised the women’s basketball league for taking action and raising awareness in the fight for racial equality.

Multiple speakers, including the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, David Cole, emphasized the importance of voting in local elections. 

“Voting is the most powerful tool we have as citizens to affect the policies of our government,” said Cole. He expressed that significant changes often start at the local level.

Part of showing up is also changing people’s minds, and one segment gave tips for having better arguments. 

Host Eric Lieu, director of the Aspen Institute’s program on citizenship and American identity, explained why we shouldn’t shy away from arguing. 

“Arguments are our best tool for spelling out different viewpoints,” explained Lieu. “The goal of a better argument is to understand.” 

He added close listening, learning about context, and having an open mind are ways to make your arguments more productive.

Day two of the event was focused more on young activists and how they are making a difference across the country.

This includes a conservationist spreading awareness on climate change around the country, the creator of a mental health advocacy website, and a Parkland shooting survivor fighting to reduce gun violence.

Salvador Gómez-Cólon spoke about how he took action after his home country of Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“I wanted to find a way to harvest my empathy and give hope to those in despair,” he said. 


Elizabeth Elliot.

Elizabeth Elliot.

He raised over $100,000 to distribute solar-powered lamps and washing machines to distribute to those without power.

In an interview, Elizabeth Elliot, the president of CLC’s Social Action Club, about how the club members are pushing for change around Lake County.

The club discusses various social issues, including racism, climate change, and many others.

“We try to bring awareness to [CLC] students and faculty,” she said.

She’s also founded her own charity, Hope Ornaments, which distributes over 8,000 ornaments to hospital patients each year around the holidays.

It was through her work with the charity that she gained her passion for social action. 

“It taught me the value of community, and family, and friendship,” said Elliot. 

Both days of the event can be viewed on The Aspen Institute’s YouTube channel.