YOUTH AND GOVERNMENT
The purpose of Youth & Government is to enhance the development of the American democratic system by enabling young people to prepare for value-based and political leadership through experiential learning. The purpose is also to create responsible citizenship by increasing awareness of societal problems and demonstrating vehicles for their resolution. The Youth and Government motto is: "Democracy must be learned by each generation."
Although the broad objectives of YMCA Youth & Government include education in the democratic process, development of leadership abilities, and stimulation of interest in government, the experience helps many participants in their choice of career. The program has inspired many young people to enter politics and allied fields such as diplomatic service and international law. The major value of the program continues to be in the development of young men and women who will be better citizens by being both knowledgeable and active in determining the future of our democracy.
The Duran Award was established by the NY State Executive Committee (currently New York State Funds Inc.) to honor the memory of Clement (Pete) Duran, a distinguished YMCA professional who, more than any person, was instrumental in establishing the YMCA Youth and Government Program in 1936 with the first teen legislative session using the NY State Capitol through a collaborative relationship with then State Governor Herbert H. Lehman.
Duran felt that America was in need of educated politicians with real character and integrity. So, he believed, that the way of providing such politicians was to form programs for young people that developed these character traits. His career was marked with the advancement of this program across the country coining the motto "Democracy Must Be Learned by Each Generation." Today more than 55,000 teens annually participate in this program that included a National Youth Governor's Conference, which he began in 1949 with twenty Youth Governors who met, and continue to meet, in Washington DC. Building upon that initiative is the annual Youth Conference on National Affairs (CONA) that began in 1968 and is currently held during the week of July 4th at Blue Ridge Assembly. Currently more than 600 selected Youth and Government delegates from across the USA participate in this weeklong National Issues conference not only debating issues but growing as citizens through the values of the YMCA.
Clement Duran served 48 years as a YMCA Secretary after immigrating to the US at 8 years old from Barcelona, Spain. In 1966 when being honored in Washington DC by YMCA leaders, Government Officials, educators, and program alumni Clement humbly stated "if in some small way, my part of the YMCA program has helped our youth to better understand the American democratic way of life, I am humble and proud that I had the chance to serve the country that granted me citizenship."