08/25/2008 11:01 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

2008 Presidential Reality Check: Poverty Matters as Young People Vote for Change in America

Change in American politics does not just happen of its own
volition. Political change, like social change, happens in America
when the majority of the people speak out, take action, and
ultimately vote for change.

Democracy is at its best when all eligible people
participate in the process. In the past, there have been too many who
did not register to vote and stood by and watched others determine
America's political and economic future. As a consequence of the
last eight years of President George W. Bush and the neocons,
millions of American families are now sinking deeper into the
quicksands of poverty, inadequate health care, deteriorating public
school systems, housing foreclosures and other forms of domestic
economic misery.

This year, however, presents an unprecedented opportunity
and responsibility for millions of new young voters to make the
critical difference in the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.
We are working to make sure that on November 4, 2008, there will be
the largest youth voter turn out in American history.

In Denver this week at the Democratic National Convention
and a week later in St. Paul at the Republican National Convention,
the candidates for president and vice president of the United States
will be formally nominated by the DNC and RNC.

Now that Senator Barack Obama has made the decision to
have Senator Joe Biden join the Democratic ticket as the candidate
for vice president and Senator John McCain is on the verge of
deciding who his running mate will be, this is the pivotal moment and
time for millions of young voters across America to weigh-in on the
critical issues that Democrats, Republicans and Independents need to
address between now and the November election.

The importance of the issues need to be emphasized here.
The quality of life of people, families and communities are all at
stake. The established media tends to focus disproportionately on
the nominees' personal traits and characteristics over and above the
life and death issues that impact our communities.

If John McCain can not remember how many houses he owns
and he thinks that the American economy is doing fairly well, then he
is more than out of touch with the realities that we know exist in
our communities.

Homelessness in the United States has grown to a record number during
the last eight years. According to the latest statistics from the US
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on any single
night there are nearly 800,000 homeless persons throughout the United
States. That's the number that HUD has been able to officially
estimate based on 2006-2007 reports. The number today is probably
much higher, given the current housing and mortgage crisis. It is
probably closer to a million homeless people each day and night that
have to roam and beg for food and shelter on the streets of the
wealthiest nation in the world.

Nearly half of all homeless persons in the US are women
and children. Two-thirds of the homeless are minorities. Homelessness
should be one of the key issues of this presidential race, in
particular for young voters, that demands a call for change.

The rise in joblessness and unemployment are also factors
contributing to the increase in poverty. Thus far in 2008, nearly a
half million more workers have joined the ranks of the unemployed. In
fact, the US Department of Labor reported that the July 2008
unemployment rate of 5.7% was the highest since 2004. Astonishingly,
more than 3.6 million long-tenured workers have been displaced since
2005 from their jobs either because of plant closings, outsourcing
and/or changes in the stability of America's industrial and
manufacturing base.

For eighteen year-olds and other teenagers who've sought
employment this summer, another harsh situation confronted them-the
absence of job opportunities. The Labor Department reported over 20%
of teenagers are unemployed. Youth employment, job training
programs, vocational education, and basic job and career development
opportunities are all issues around which young voters are demanding
a change.

It appears that one of the reasons why Obama decided to pick Biden as
his running mate for vice president is because of Biden's blue collar
roots and his longstanding endorsement of organized labor's support
for jobs and better wages for American workers. It will be
interesting to hear how the Obama-Biden ticket intends to deal with
the issues of poverty, homelessness, jobs, education, heath care,
environment, the Iraq war and other issues that are important to
young voters. Likewise, John McCain's decision on his running mate
will also send a signal to young voters of his sensitivity to the
issues that young people care about passionately.

In Denver on the first night of the DNC, a special message
was sent to the Yoga Festival assembled to put an emphasis on the
issues of health care and the global consciousness of youth and
people of goodwill all over America and throughout the world for
peace, nonviolence, equal justice, and more respect for the
environment, humanity, humane treatment of animals, conservation and
all justice-making and peace-making work that will make the nation
and world a better place for all. Arianna Huffington will give the
keynote address to the festival.

Poets, writers and artists that are sincere about using
their God-given creativity and genius to promote and encourage
progressive change are being more and more outspoken on these issues
because they are guided by the inner search of their souls and
spirits to find the oneness of God and the oneness of all creation.
This is what a yogi refers to as Atman, the God within.

When poets and artists push the societal envelope with
courage and clarity, sometimes they are misunderstood. But most
creative people will not be like sheep and be misled or intimidated
by the desire of those to be politically correct which often means
being politically silent in the face of social injustice and mass
suffering. Through meditation, art, and poetic expression, artists
and poets throughout history have been at the forefront of saying no
to abuse, all abuse. They take the lead in saying yes to change.
Compassion dissipates fear. This is at the core of why artists
shatter the silence. We are witnessing the evolution of the diversity
and universality of the consciousness of humanity. The abusive
politics of the past must be challenged and transformed.

In this respect, Oprah has also mentioned that there are
more than 37 million people, many of whom are young adults, who are
yearning for a better way of life and a higher state of consciousness
as outlined in Eckhart Tolle's new book that has sold over 10 million
copies: A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. Earlier this
year, we sent out an Open Letter to all the US Presidential
Candidates. We also highlighted the point about the growing new
"consciousness" among more and more people who are not only ready to
see positive, constructive change in the world, but also who are
willing to work to make that change happen.

The entire world will be impacted by the outcome of the
elections here in the United States. Thus, a reality check is in
order during the DNC and the RNC. We join with millions of young
people who want to see a Nu America, a Nu Earth and Nu World. That
means there has to be a Nu Politics and a Nu Economics guided by a Nu
Consciousness based on peace, freedom, justice and equality for all
and not based on greed, war, destruction, injustice and oppression.

Our call to action is a call to a new consciousness and a
new commitment. Between now and November 4, 2008, let us all use our
energy, imagination, creativity, prayer and power to make the
determinative difference. God bless. Let's make change happen now.