Desert Town Hall Speakers 2018

Youth Programs

Youth Town Hall

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Support from sponsors and community donations make possible a memorable experience for students who participate in Youth Town Hall, presented by the H. N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation’s Desert Town Hall. Representing the socio-economic diversity found in the Coachella Valley, students from 22 area high schools are invited to attend.

More than 150 students attend each of four lectures each year.

Imagine the impact on these 600 young lives.

DOWNLOAD THE 2017 SUMMARY YOUTH AMBASSADOR APPLICATION

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Students attend a reception where they are treated to appetizers and refreshments.

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President George W. Bush appeared April 7, 2011. His remarks to the students were candid. Oftentimes speakers will describe their own academic and career challenges and choices.

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Students are prepared for their evening by a leader from the community who will brief them before the featured speaker appears.

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Students are empowered to lead their reception. Here a bright young woman introduces neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Rapt attention is paid to the speaker's remarks. The students present some of the most challenging questions.

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Imagine the thoughts of this young lady as she listens to Newsweek and Daily Beast Editor Tina Brown.

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Students asked questions of acclaimed journalists, Lisa and Laura Ling. Laura's personal story was an inspiration to many students.

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Sponsors and their guests typically line the walls of the YTH reception so they can watch the interaction between students and speaker.

Community leaders like attorney Brian Harnik (left) and Justice Douglas Miller, California Court of Appeals Judge (right) play an active role in YTH.

Students look forward to their special evening and arrive early to interact with youth from other schools.

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Time Editor-at-Large and CNN Host Fareed Zakaria shared his thoughtful pathway to U.S. citizenship with the students.

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Following their private reception, students listen to a simulcast from the main stage.

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This young man may be a future leader in our military. Students describe in letters to the board how much the experience enriches their lives.

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The speakers often remark on how their interaction with the youth is their favorite part of the evening.

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It truly was an inspiration when Olympic basketball star, former member of the New York Knicks, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, merchant banker and best-selling author Bill Bradley met with the students.

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Journalism students especially enjoyed their signed copy of Jeannette Walls' best-selling book The Glass Castle.

Principals have the discretion to decide which of their school's students attend each event. Very often the students are matched to best benefit from the speaker's expertise, such as from government classes or the school newspaper staff.

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Students are encouraged to share their Youth Town Hall experience through social media.

“The experience helped me focus on what I want to do as a career,” said one student.

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The inspiration is evident on these young faces.

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Sponsors are delighted to share in the experience of these fine students.

Student Letters:

Letters from the students offer the best thank-you. Excerpted here is a smattering of the heartfelt gratitude they have expressed over the years.

“I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to see former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney in action.  The experience was nothing like I have ever been exposed to before and proved to be a truly memorable night.  The expertise in his field clearly showed through and I am looking forward to what Governor Romney will go on to do in the future.  I was extremely impressed and satisfied with my experience and will highly recommend the Youth Town Hall program to my peers.”  - Jacob W.

“Thank you for the opportunity to see Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lecture.  He has always been an inspiration to me as I hope to one day be involved in the field of science.  It was very interesting to learn about the decrease of interest in science in the U.S. as Dr. Tyson explained in his lecture.  I also like that the youth got their own time to hear from Dr. Tyson and ask questions.  The food was great too!  I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity you have provided me and I hope to attend another Town Hall lecture in the future.” - Steven C.

“My experience at the Youth Town Hall’s Speaker Series with Platon was truly moving and inspiring. His way of speaking was direct and sincere, but most importantly conveyed that, despite our youthfulness, we have the power to change the world for the better.  Platon shared with us some of his many life experiences and how they shaped him into the person he is today.  Many of these stories included acts of bravery and heroism from ordinary people and humanization of huge pop culture icons and political figures – people that he has photographed throughout his career.”- Elizabeth C.

“Dr. Krauthammer further exposed me to higher level political views, broadening my mindset. I value this opportunity because I firmly believe that the youth, as the up and coming generation of voters of America, must be well informed.  It was delightful to see how our desert embraces the youth by providing these generous events, through the Youth Town Hall.”  - Nathan P. 

"Hearing the words of such a high profile figure that had a significant role in world affairs (Secretary Leon Panetta) makes us more conscious of the world and our government system.  These Youth Town Hall events give students like me perspective and makes us take a moment to reflect upon what impact we want to have in our education and careers." - Jesse

"The courageous stories shared by Lisa and Laura Ling allowed me to analyze certain aspects in life in a more positive perspective.  They inspired me to venture the world and learn about new ideas and cultures.  They also excited me for what is to come into my future." - Natalie

"I was captured by what Mr. Karl Rove had to say.  His speaking skills are impeccable, to the point where I just wanted to hear more.  I liked hearing his conservative views because they opened my mind to the Republican mindset, something that I don't have much exposure to since my whole family is very liberal." - Austin

"I agreed when Dr. Ben Carson said that we all should stay in school and get a career to make a good life for ourselves.  It is the only way we will live comfortably.  It was sad to hear that 30 percent of high school students will drop out and not graduate.  I liked his advice when a student asked how to keep the faith when going through school and life challenges."  - Jacqueline

"As an aspiring oncologist, I found much of what Dr. Sanjay Gupta shared to be true to the kind of doctor and person I aim to become." - Jessica

"Being groomed in the realm of honors courses, failure is avoided like a terminal disease and a lot of anxiety rises up around it.  Tina Brown's practical attitude towards the risk of failure is reassuring to say the least." - Peyton

"Governor Jeb Bush's discussion was very enjoyable and enlightening.  The discussion held after the speech was also very entertaining, as my peers had many good thoughts about Governor Bush's ideas and, whether they agreed with him or not, all the students showed rational and thoughtful reasoning." - Michael

"It was such an honor just being in the same room as General Stanley McChrystal.  I feel that I have gained so much from him.  His speech on leadership really opened my eyes.  I learned that being a leader isn't just what rank you hold; it's about who you are and how you treat others.  He has greatly impacted my decision-making in such a positive way.  My dream is to join the Air Force someday and being a leader will push me even closer to that dream.  I would never have had this much courage to get back on this path if it hadn't been for General McChrystal." - Amaris

"I never thought that I would have the privilege to listen to a lecture of a former vice president (Dick Cheney) and his daughter (Liz Cheney)...The whole experience has inspired me to get involved, and has made me realize that no educational goal is out of reach, and always attainable." - Juanne

"David Brooks inspired me with his in-depth commentary about the journalistic field and the success he has garnered from his vocation.  Having aspirations to become a journalist myself, I found his lecture to be very informative and helpful for my future goals." - Crystal

"The presentation gave me a whole new perspective on our country.  Prior to this event I was not very familiar with U.S. government military operations and our diplomatic image across the world; but I feel Dr. Robert Gates gave insight that touched all areas of current United States politics and provided an understanding about U.S. military relations... Reading history from textbooks is valuable, but to hear about history from someone who made it was captivating and unforgettable." - Juan

"Dr. Bob Ballard focused a large portion of his time toward encouraging us to pursue careers we are passionate about.  He spoke about failure and the life lessons we will learn.  Not only did I take away the pleasure of meeting a modern-day hero who discovered the Titanic, but I walked away with life lessons." - Katherine

“As a foreign exchange student from China, (Fareed Zakaria’s) experience helped me to understand the true meaning of the American Dream. I want to study engineering at UCLA or UC-Berkeley.” – Qin

“I feel like I learned so much and gained so much more respect for President George W. Bush with the opportunity to hear him speak. All of his experiences he shared were so personal that I felt like I was meeting him personally. I was in awe the whole time I was there, and I could not believe that I was sitting only feet away from a former president of the United States.” – Jesse

“Oftentimes we blind ourselves to our own struggles and we don’t see the more difficult life someone could be going through such as Jeannette Walls did as a child. I could not have asked for a better, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening experience as the one I experienced hearing Jeannette Walls speak.” – Magdyel

"It is not often that students in high school are exposed to real politicians and their opinions.  Bill Bradley was very funny and I was more interested in him because I am also a basketball player for my school team.  I thought it was interesting to learn about his transition from NBA to being a senator.  The special question and answer we had with him before his lecture was the most interesting part of the night because it was addressed directly to my age group." - Stephanie

Schools Invited

Amistad High School
Cathedral City High School
Coachella Valley High School
Desert Chapel Christian School
Desert Christian Academy
Desert Hot Springs Alternative
Desert Hot Springs High School
Desert Mirage High School
Horizon School
Indio High School
La Familia Continuation
La Quinta High School
Mount San Jacinto Continuation
Palm Desert High School
Palm Springs High School
Palm Valley High School
Ramon Academy
Rancho Mirage High School
Shadow Hills High School
Summit Continuation
West Shores
Xavier College Prep

Proud Sponsors

The H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation
City of Indian Wells
The Desert Sun
Rabobank
Helene Galen
Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa
Roemer & Harnik LLP, Attorneys and Counselors At Law
Sunrise Company/Toscana Country Club
Valentine-Dougherty-Clark, 111 Wealth Management Group Morgan Stanley
West Coast Turf Foster-Gardner, Inc.  


Special Thanks

The Coeta & Donald Barker Foundation
The H. N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation
The Gannett Foundation
& many supporters and friends of our youth


Thank you to sponsors, board members, subscribers, and to the Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation, for helping to make a difference in these young lives.