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While Republicans convened at the First Union Center and protestors took to the streets of Center City, young activists from around the country came together for the 2000 National Youth Convention at Drexel University this week.

Approximately 200 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 participated in the program, which coincided with the first three days of the Republican National Convention.

Developed by Youth in Action -- a non-profit and non-partisan organization based in Los Angeles -- the Convention offered young people the chance to discuss critical issues relating to the future of their country.

"It's so important for young people to have a legitimate active voice," said delegate Emily Regan Wills, a recent graduate of Penn Crest High School.

"I think we came together to make change and came up with viable solutions," she continued.

In the past several days, the delegates worked to develop a 10-point platform on the issues that mattered most to America's youth, and then presented the platform to politicians and the press yesterday in the convention's final day.

Governor George W. Bush was invited to attend, but declined.

However, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader was able to come to the unveiling of the platform and commented on each issue brought up by the youth panelists.

At one point, after discussing the issue of drug abuse in America, Nader joked, "What does George W. Bush have to say?" looking at the empty chair next to him.

According to Goutam Jois, a member of the National Youth Action Council, the platform's contents were determined by delegate input, data collected through a website geared towards young activists, and a survey organized by Oregon State University.

The issues of education, health, community involvement and justice were all included in this year's platform.

Nader critiqued all of the delegates' proposed solutions to the problems they identified, which ranged from fostering dialogue between students, teachers and administrators to providing universal healthcare for all Americans.

Many of those in attendance were impressed with his responses.

"This is the first time I heard of Ralph Nader," said delegate Alfonso Brown, a 10th grade student at Central High School. "I felt that he felt the same way we did."

In his speech, Nader said he thought young people were especially important in a democratic society.

"You've got to have a sense of urgency. You're not citizens in waiting, you're citizens now, able to shape the future," Nader said. "You can't live a life of procrastination of your civic duty and your civic responsibility."

After Nader's speech and discussion among the delegates, Philadelphia Mayor John Street delivered closing remarks.

"The fact of the matter is that you can't always depend on us... sometimes what we need is for you to be a little agressive to make sure we hear you," he said.

The second 2000 National Youth Convention will be held in Los Angeles during the Democratic National Convention, with Vice President Al Gore invited to attend.

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