In a challenge to the stereotype that they are apathetic, young people throughout the world continue to move and shake political structures and social paradigms.
Just a week before longstanding Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, two Stanford University undergraduates wondered how to bring together the young people fueling the Arab spring. Their discussions evolved into the American Middle East Network for Dialogue at Stanford (AMENDS), which now has an executive board made up of 17 Stanford students hailing from all over the US and the MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) region.

Supported by Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, AMENDS hosted its first summit earlier this month at Stanford University, from April 10-14, after selecting 40 youth leaders representing 17 countries from a large pool of applicants. The delegates were paired up before the summit based on their regions and interests and assigned mentors with whom to discuss and develop their initiatives.

In an article from the Stanford University News, AMENDS co-founder Elliot Stoller said, “We wanted them to learn from each other, to figure out how to do what they’re doing better, to ensure to them a network of like-minded people and, ultimately, to empower them and amplify their voices.”

The 40 delegates included Iraqi Firas Al-Dabbagh, a founder of the Islam Counter Extremism Network, Mohammad Aljishi of Saudi Arabia, founder of a Society of Activists for Human Empowerment, Lubna Alzaroo, Palestinian founder of “Sharing Stories,” and Principia’s own Heather Libbe, who graduated in 2011 and is currently the Euphrates Institute’s Fellows Program Manager. Libbe gave her 10-minute AMENDS talk (à la TED talks) about the Euphrates Fellows program during a session on April 11. Sessions were titled “Technology, Social Media, and Innovation,” “Building Civil Society,” “Peace and Conflict Resolution,” and “The New Middle East.”

Libbe said: “Participating in AMENDS helped me see that it is possible for people from all over the world to come together for dialogue. I definitely gained a deeper appreciation for heads of state who have to do this on a much larger scale, representing entire nations in the decisions they are making. This helped me realize the importance of metaphysically supporting these individuals each day.”

In addition to their own AMENDS talks, delegates took part in an opening ceremony with an address by Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco, a leadership dinner, a networking dinner, and two sessions of speeches and panel discussions by various world leaders, from Sami Ben Gharbia, a Tunisian political activist and Foreign Policy Top 100 Thinker to Thomas Riley, the former US Ambassador to Morocco.

Libbe added, “It was also really fun for me to be able to share Euphrates, Principia and Christian Science with individuals from all different backgrounds. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to meet inspiring individuals from all over the Middle East and hear about their initiatives. It’s pretty neat to be able to talk to people from Yemen, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Territories all in one day!”

Both the AMENDS Global Summit and the Euphrates Summit: Our World Beyond 9/11 last October brought together agents of change working to bring peace and well-being to their communities and countries. Similar to the young AMENDS delegates, Euphrates’ Warriors for Peace, first featured at last year’s summit, are individuals under 40 working toward peace and/or sustainability in the Middle East.

Here at Principia, next year’s Public Affairs Conference will focus on “Empowering Youth Around the World”— another opportunity to connect and inspire the young people just beginning their careers in our rapidly changing global village.