Justin Trudeau continued with his quest to steal every North American heart when he came to NYU on Thursday afternoon. The Prime Minister of Canada engaged in a lively question and answer session with NYU students to encourage their participation in politics and address their most pressing concerns for the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
At only 44 years old, Trudeau stated he is one of the first examples of this generation to reach a position of real authority, as he has tremendous international influence by being a leader of a developed nation. As the leading member of Canada’s Liberal Party, Trudeau has worked to employ progressive measures throughout the country, including appointing 15 women to his cabinet and bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada since his election.
In addition, climate change has been a staple of Trudeau’s policy platform. He has implemented various legislations in order to reduce carbon emissions after attending the Paris Climate Change Conference.
LS freshman Asha Ruparell said that Trudeau’s thoughts on sustainability and climate change were particularly engaging and relevant.
“It was interesting when he said, ‘Yes, I’m looking for sustainable resources,'” Ruparell said. “But it’s not a reality for tomorrow, so in the meantime we need to focus on improving our infrastructure for fossil fuels, like building a pipeline, which is safer than transport by railroad.”
While the prime minister is in New York City to sign the Paris climate change agreement, the Q&A session lent itself to acknowledging a variety of students’ concerns — among which were becoming politically active as a millennial, feminism, youth engagement and peacekeeping.
Trudeau said instituting a Canadian government that reflected the country’s values and the kinds of initiatives its citizens wanted to put in place was largely accomplished by reaching out to young voters. He added that politicians often disregard young people because there is a false assumption that they are uninterested in what is going on around them, when they are really just frustrated about their capacity to be listened to.
“We put forward a narrative that was much more about listening, about collaboration, about respect, about looking for common ground and pulling people together,” Trudeau said. “And not just engaging young people as letter stuffers and sign-putter-uppers but drivers of policy and engagement and mobilization in concrete ways,” Trudeau said.
LS freshman Alison Rao said that Trudeau coming to NYU was indicative of his interest in students’ thoughts and opinions.
“Trudeau’s regard for our generation is really appealing,” Rao said. “I listened in on the livestream, and the fact that the conversation was in Q&A style spoke to Trudeau’s inclusion of young voices and opinions.”
In a question proposed by an audience member, Trudeau addressed his stance on the gender equality movement by stating he was a feminist, which was met with applause from the audience. However, Trudeau said he wished people did not make a big deal out of such a statement, and he hopes one day it is no longer a reaction point.
“I just am a product of this generation,” Trudeau said. “ And [I] understand that this generation in general is one that is much more open and respectful of diversity and accepting that equality is not just the right thing to do. It is an incredibly important thing to do if we want to be successful in this world. But we still have a lot of work to do on it.”
CAS freshman Althea Meer said that she found it appealing how Trudeau labeled himself as a feminist and a liberal.
“I really appreciate that he could come straight out and say that,” Meer said. “We need American leadership that understands and sympathizes with the struggles that women and any other marginalized or oppressed groups have been struggling with for centuries.”
Gallatin senior Chloe Chik said it was an incredible experience to have an intimate question and answer session with Prime Minister Trudeau.
“It was engaging to have students candidly ask him questions on issues that were really important to them,” Chik said. “I was really surprised with how honest his answers were and how open he and his ideas were. He was both idealistic but grounded in sound policy and political realities.”
Email Greta Chevance and Lexi Faunce at [email protected]