Introduction to FIRST
The Foundation for Individual Responsibility and Social Trust (FIRST), based in Philadelphia, was created in order to engage a new generation of citizens. It hoped to engage young adults (born between 1961 and 1981--the oft-disparaged "Generation X"), convincing them that their participation as citizens is worthwhile, by creating new ways for this generation's voice to be heard.
FIRST's primary strategy to achieve this goal was to create new outlets for this generation's voice that reflect the non-partisan common ground which we share on the most fundamental issues facing our nation. This effort was designed to convince young adults that their participation as citizens is both meaningful and critical to our common future.
"We the Future..." was FIRST's principal program. The goal was to engage young born between 1961 and 1981, a group often disparaged as "Generation X", in exercising the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
The project began with an inaugural We the Future Convention on National Issues for Young Adults in Philadelphia in September, 1996. Fifteen distinguished scholars, authors, and public officials spoke, including Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Connecticut College President Claire Gaudiani, and Trudy Rubin, the nationally syndicated columnist on international affairs. Delegates deliberated upon basic issue areas of national importance
Because the delegates to the convention expressed a desire to continue these conversations in their local communities, FIRST created National Deliberation Day, which was held in April, 1997. Hundreds of additional young adults discussed "Reinventing the American Dream" at 24 sites in 15 states including California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. These conversations produced eight themes and an idea to form the Generational Action Plan.
These initial discussions led to the following ideas:
The Generational Action Plan - The idea for the Generational Action Plan (GAP) emerged from the first National Deliberation Day, in April 1997, which produced eight themes and the idea for GAP. The Generational Action Plan will consider and analyze each of these themes, and from them will set the generation's priorities. GAP will culminate in 2000, when FIRST will present the details of what actions and responsibilities it will take to fulfill these goals to the leadership of American civil society, the Presidential candidates, and the public at large.
Next Century Partnerships - Although FIRST focuses on Generation X, it also wanted to involve older adults. So Next Century Partnerships were created to get older adults involved in getting younger adults involved.
Local Initiatives Project - Intended to enable greater participation and contribution from as many voices as possible, the Local Initiatives Project involves forming Regional Super Teams (RSTs) across the country to host local conventions on national issues. Our goal is to have 50 RSTs, one in each state, in the fall of 1999. Each RST will host ongoing discussions on a specific theme, culminating in a large fall event.
We the Future 2 (convention details)
With the momentum created from National Deliberation Day, FIRST held a second national convention in Philadelphia in October 1997 again attracting over 100 delegates from 24 states. Featured speakers included Neil Howe, co-author of Generations and Fourthturning, Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Bishop Charles Bennison of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, and Dr. John Buehrens, President, Unitarian Universalist Association of America. These delegates deliberated upon the basic themes identified during National Deliberation Day.
The future of We the Future
At the 1997 convention, delegates developed a list of critical questions that this generation must answer under each thematic area. As described elsewhere, The Generational Action Plan (GAP) would
be built by the year 2000, consider a variety of specific issues within each theme,
analyze the challenges they present, set the generation's priorities,
detail what actions and responsibilities it will take to fulfill its goals, and
will be presented on April 14-16, 2000, to the leadership of America's civil society, the Presidential candidates, and the public at large.
In April 2000, FIRST held its final convention in Philadelphia. Senator John McCain was one of the main speakers. The Generational Action Plan was presented at this event. Within a few months, the organization effectively disbanded.
In the summer of 2003, some of FIRST's main activists decided to reconvene some apects of the organization, in order to address many of the new issues facing the US. This effort eventually became the FIRST-Ideals Network.
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