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Does America Need a National Youth Day?

One of the most memorable moments during the recent World Cup in South Africa was the series of games played on that nation’s Youth Day on June 16th. This confluence of events was truly important for South Africa. Considering the number of countries that honor their youth every year, is it time for the United States to observe a similar day for their young people?

The 34th annual Youth Day observed in South Africa last month was a big deal even without the World Cup matches.  While the host nation’s Bafana Bafana played that day at the World Cup, Youth Day was already an important day in the country. Marking the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Uprising, the celebration is a huge part of a collective South African identity still evolving since the end of Apartheid.

Few Americans were familiar with the uprising, let alone the day marking its anniversary. But considering how many other countries celebrate a similar day every year, it’s worth discussing why the United States doesn’t commemorate its own Youth Day.

The youth of the United States might not have its own Soweto-like event to rally around. But there is a variety of Youth Days around the globe that can be used as a template.  Both the United Nations and the Catholic Church celebrate their respective World Youth Days. China and the Republic of the Congo are among the other nations also celebrating their own Youth Day. In each case, the special day is reserved to celebrate the role of youth in building a nation.

While some American cities, like Detroit, do celebrate their own Youth Day, a number of studies and commentary allude to the need for a national Youth Day in the United States. In the past month, a number of large media outlets have lamented the Peter Pan syndrome that seems to plague most of today’s Gen Y adults. With studies showing that America’s youth are spending more time online and less time empathizing, the need for an American Youth Day may have never been greater.

Sure, young Americans may have slowly become the Jackass generation in an infantile attempt to engage in overall recklessness. They’re also one of the most technologically savvy generations in history. So there is hope for America’s youth. For one thing, the number of volunteers has grown in the past year, demonstrating a potential eagerness among people across the country to come together for this kind of event. After all, Whitney Houston did say that she believed the children were our future. She might be available to help celebrate.

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