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‘Get out!’ vs. ‘Finish the job!’

Nolitha Namatovu Luzuka, 18, of East London, South Africa. Nolithia, who is Ugandan, is a South African citizen and a senior at the Clarendon High School for Girls in East London. (YJI)

Youth Journalism International reporters in eight countries talked to more than 30 young people on five continents to find out what the election of Barack Obama might mean for them, their nation, the world and the future. Read this special report — the largest we’ve ever undertaken — to find out what they had to say on the eve of Obama’s Inauguration as president of the United States.

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan is a hot topic for teens across the world.

Whatever their feelings are, most young people interviewed by Youth Journalism International agree that it is one of the most important issues facing future President Barack Obama.

“I want him to understand that the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan is unbearable,” said 18-year-old Alessia Ubaldini of Genoa, Italy. “He is a world citizen. He was born in Honolulu and he has lived in so many different places. I think he’s open minded enough to understand different nations.”

Many teens said Obama should withdraw troops from Iraq.

“Get us out,” said Rocco DiTaranto, an eighth grader at Bristow Middle School in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Alice Cordara, a 17-year-old high school student at Liceo Classico Mazzini in Genoa, Italy, said she wants the new American president to stay in contact with the leaders of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I hope Obama will retire the troops from both the countries, even if I’ve heard he only wants to move them from Iraq to Afghanistan,” she said.

But many students recognize that pulling troops out is not a simple matter.

“It’s a tricky issue, and any withdrawal would be a gradual process,” said 17-year-old Paul Harris, of Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

“I’m not educated enough to say, but I don’t think it wise to pull the troops out immediately,” said 14-year-old Rebecca Au. “We don’t want to send the message that after these people have worked so hard, we think it all meaningless.”

Au, a student at Owl Academy in Highland Park, New Jersey added, “I don’t know when exactly, but I don’t think it should be an abrupt withdrawal. We should bring the troops home, certainly, but eventually.”

Many teens have ideas about what should be done after troops are withdrawn.

Eighteen-year-old South African citizen Nolitha Namatovu Luzuka believes the U.S. should help rebuild infrastructure and assist governments “where at all possible.”

Nolitha Namatovu Luzuka, 18, of East London, South Africa. Nolithia, who is Ugandan, is a South African citizen and a senior at the Clarendon High School for Girls in East London. (YJI)

Cyrilla Mulindi, who like Luzuka is a student at Clarendon High School for Girls in East London, South Africa, said, “Take the troops out, but keep American peace-keeping corps present to help restore what has been damaged.”

Although many teens support gradual troop withdrawl, some said pulling U.S. soldiers out is not the right step to take.

Katie Mullaney, a 16-year-old student at Agape Academy in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, described her opinion about the Iraqi War and Afghanistan conflict in three words.

“Finish the job,” she said.

Ray Ma, a homeschooled 15-year-old from Columbia, South Carolina, agreed that troops should remain in the Middle East.

Ma said he would “like to see Obama changing his mind about the purposed troop withdrawal in Iraq. To withdraw now or anytime soon will destroy everything that we’ve been working on in Iraq since the beginning of the war.”

Ma said the most important thing is to win “the heart of the Afghan people.”

“We must not become or act like an invading army and violate their national sovereignty,” he said. “If we lose the support of the Afghan people, we lose the war.”

The current fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan is a controversial issue for teens from across the globe. But no matter their stance on troop withdrawal, most hope that Obama will be able to find some solution to the ongoing conflicts in these areas.

Saeed Haris, a 24-year-old student at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul, said the war needs to come to a quick conclusion.

“It will be good to invest on the people rather investing on [a] particular president,” said Haris, “since governments will change, but people will remain mostly unchanged.”

Contributing to this story by Youth Journalism International Associate Editor Rachel Glogowski in Bristol, Connecticut, U.S.A. were: Senior Reporters Katie Grosser in Meschede, Calle, Germany; Edrees Kakar in Kabul, Afghanistan; Alexandra Patrikios in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia; and Wesley Saxena in West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.; Reporters Sana Ali in Kuwait; Shekinah-Glory Dhanie-Beepat in Carteret, New Jersey, U.S.A; Eugenia Durante in Genoa, Italy; Kiernan Majerus-Collins in West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A.; Harsha Mishra in Bareilly, Uttar Province, India; and Mariechen Puchert in East London, Eastern Cape, South Africa; and Junior Reporters Brice Birdsall in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.; Sarah Heath in Spring City, Tennessee, U.S.A.; Jacqueline Mejia in Queens, New York, U.S.A.; and Mariah Pulver in Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.


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