U.S. Youth Observer to the United Nations Dustin Liu spoke with seniors in Loomis Chaffee’s Global and Environmental Studies Certificate program on December 8 and 10 during two seminar sessions focused on identifying and developing skills for youth activism.
Mr. Liu’s presentation energized the cadre of students, who are working on the capstone projects required to earn the certificate.
As a youth observer, Mr. Liu works to connect young people to the work of the United Nations. In his high-energy presentation, which he delivered via video conference, he explained that he meets regularly with groups of young people from across the United States in what he calls a “national listening tour” to understand what young people think about pressing global issues and to inform them about ways the United Nations can help them take action. Mr. Liu said he seeks to amplify the voices of youth leaders, to engage more young people in the effort to enact change, and to help achieve worldwide sustainability goals as outlined by the United Nations.
At the start of his talk, Mr. Liu ran the students through some discovery exercises so that he and the group could gain an understanding about where participants stood on their social and environmental activism journeys.
“Young people have immense wisdom … [and] an indescribable sense of imagination,” Mr. Liu said, explaining that these attributes are important in tackling global challenges.
Mr. Liu said he was inspired to activism by his parents, both Taiwanese immigrants, who fostered in him a belief that change can begin with individuals, not just organizations or governments. Young people understand the change that needs to take place, he said, and their energy and participation can drive social change. He shared several stories about young individuals he has met who are actively involved in tackling global issues and are making a difference.
Activism regarding climate change is urgently needed, he said. “Systems need to be dramatically reimagined, … and relationships need to be transformative to enact change,” he told the students. “Each and every one of you plays a clear role in that movement forward.”
Using an informational graphic, Mr. Liu explained the tenets of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, a plan of action for people, planet, and prosperity that was adopted by all U.N. member states in 2015. He discussed what is necessary for systemic and social change, offered advice for developing skills to take action, and suggested ways the United Nations can help meet their goals.
“It’s really important that we maintain hope and stay in the fight,” Mr. Liu stressed.
After his presentation, the students asked Mr. Liu about his experience working at the United Nations and about policymakers’ receptiveness toward young people’s climate change concerns. The students also sought his advice regarding community organizing and gaining the attention of policymakers. Mr. Liu encouraged the students to reach out directly to those in power in government and other organizations and ask how to get involved.
In addition to his role at the United Nations, Mr. Liu serves as a graduate assistant for social innovation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is a teaching fellow at Harvard University. He is working toward a master’s degree at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. Mr. Liu earned a bachelor’s degree at Cornell University. For more information about Mr. Liu and his work, connect to the United Nations website.
Visit Loomis Chaffee’s Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies webpage to learn more about the Global and Environmental Studies Certificate program as well as other opportunities available to Loomis students through the center.