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Senior statesman shares insights with teens

Lugar - stageNearly 450 high schoolers from throughout the state gathered Saturday at UIndy for the 39th annual Richard G. Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow’s Leaders, which opened in Ransburg Auditorium with an address by the former senator.

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With the United States facing complicated challenges around the world – from Russia to China to the Middle East and even here at home – all citizens have a responsibility to stay informed and work toward solutions, former Sen. Richard Lugar told an audience of Indiana’s best and brightest high school juniors today at the University of Indianapolis.

“These are basic issues that each American, young and old, has to ask for more information, has to develop more opinions, has to require more from the leaders of our country,” he said in his keynote address at the 39th annual Lugar Symposium for Tomorrow’s Leaders.

Selfie with senator
Selfie with senator

The event drew nearly 450 teens from more than 60 counties, along with accompanying adults and members of the public, for a day of engagement on pressing public issues. After the morning program, lunch and group photos with Lugar, the students spent the afternoon in group discussions with UIndy faculty members and other experts on issues including terrorism, the refugee crisis, the 2016 presidential election and U.S. leadership in the world.

The senior statesman’s morning address focused on key international concerns:
Russia – Under its “very dramatic leader” Vladimir Putin, Lugar said, Russia is meddling in world affairs and poses a threat to nearby nations. And it still has nuclear missiles pointed at the United States, he reminded the audience.
Syria and Iraq – Civil war and the rise of ISIS call for international action, but no good course is apparent, he said. Russia is complicating the situation with its support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and any major military action by the United States would leave the same disarray that still plagues neighboring Iraq. Nonetheless, America must engage with European nations and even Russia and Iran to seek a resolution.
China – Although China has generally stayed clear of the Middle East conflict, he said, its actions – including the construction of artificial islands and airstrips in the Pacific – raise concerns for Japan and for U.S. naval superiority in the region.

Meanwhile, the political climate in the United States is not conducive to positive change, Lugar noted.

“We are at a time of polarization in Congress that has not been seen in the country for several decades,” he said.

In a Q&A session with students, Lugar was asked about America’s responsibility to refugees from Syria and elsewhere.

“I believe that we ought to admit refugees,” he said. “I believe it is very important that there be proper vetting. We ought to be very cautious and thorough in that respect. At the same time, there are many people in this state, through the generosity in their hearts … who would like to be helpful to people who are in severe need.”

Preceding Lugar’s speech, Franklin Central High School senior Jasmine Kalia received this year’s Lugar Distinguished Student Leadership Award. She set the stage by also urging her peers toward lives of service and leadership.

“A leader channels the energy and enthusiasm of success,” she said.

Award presentationFranklin Central High School senior Jasmine Kalia accepts the 2015 Lugar Distinguished Student Leadership Award from former Sen. Richard Lugar and Mark Weigand, UIndy’s Executive VP for Campus Affairs & Enrollment Services.