The second annual National Student Congress, hosted by the Henry Clay Center for Statesmanship, released its index Friday of the top global threats facing the next generation.
Fifty-one politically minded students, representing each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, identified Middle East-U.S. relations, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, education and gender equality, sustainability and environmental concerns, the threat of global pandemics and global warming as the most pressing current issues.
Each student was asked to bring a list of 10 threats most pressing to Generation Y, the 70 million Americans between 18 and 32 years old, said Mindy Shannon Phelps, executive director of the center.
The list of threats was narrowed down as the students debated the issues, Phelps said.
The students met in the Old State Capitol in Frankfort on Wednesday, where Henry Clay himself once spoke.
Within 24 hours, students had to assess each member's strengths, develop criteria for evaluation, weigh each of the threats, and produce a document, Scott Whiddon, an assistant professor at Transylvania University, said in a release from the center. Whiddon moderated the debates.
Relations between the Middle East and the U.S., nuclear proliferation and terrorism were identified as the top global threats.
"Due to the interconnectedness of these issues, we choose to recognize them as one," the students said in the report. "Stabilizing the Middle East through diplomatic means is one of the most important initiatives in the region."
The positive outcome of Lebanon's recent democratic election have been muffled by the conflict of the Iranian elections, the students said.
"We recognize these two recent events as signs of potential movement in a democratic direction," they said in the report.
Insufficient access to education was listed as the second greatest global threat.
"Even the finest education system in the world is useless unless the opportunity is made available to every student, regardless of geographic or socioeconomic status," the students said in the report. "Presently we do not have any semblance of educational equality."
Kara Osborne of London, who will be a senior at the University of Kentucky, had a list that included cyber and biological terrorism, sustainability of natural resources and the potential threat of nuclear warfare.
Osborne is studying dentistry and public policy. She said she hopes to apply what she's learned at the congress to promote oral health education in her hometown, in a region that suffers from poor dental care.