Young people must lead the conversation about US debt

Wantoe is a student activist from the USA.

The United States is often considered the greatest country on earth. Rich in tourist attractions and popular culture. Its citizens are secure in the safest place on earth from external attacks. It is the envy of many. Economically, the US  is unmatched in the world. For instance, according to research from; ́The largest state in the U.S. by GDP [Gross Domestic Product] is California, which has a $2.97 trillion economy.’ This makes California the 5th largest economy in the world, comparable to Britain, which has a GDP of $2.81 trillion. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. economy held $20.49 trillion in 2018 in nominal terms and is expected to reach $21.35 trillion in 2019. 

Wantoe at the 2019 Net Impact Conference.

The U.S. is often dubbed as an economic superpower and that’s because the economy constitutes almost a quarter of the global economy, backed by advanced infrastructure, technology, and an abundance of natural resources. Even compared to its main competitor,  China, the U.S. economy is huge in terms of GDP (PPP), at $20.49 trillion, while the Chinese economy was measured at $25.27 trillion. The U.S. produced $20.5 trillion in goods and services over 2018. For comparison the total GDP for the entire world was about $80 trillion in 2017. Despite the outstanding economic dominance, the United States has faced challenges in resolving it’s current growing debt. 

According to the Treasury Department memo released on Friday. The federal government’s outstanding public debt has surpassed $23 trillion for the first time in history. This is a troubling time because the projection of the Congressional Budget Office estimates that rising federal debt could reduce the average four-person family income by $16,000, by 2048. Also, the CBO further approximate that by 2049, debt held by the public will reach an unprecedented 144% of GDP. This growing debt reduces our ability to invest in the future, gives us less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and increases the risk of a fiscal crisis. 

Since 2012, Up to Us has engaged the next generation of leaders on the importance of addressing the country’s fiscal challenges. At the College of Mount Saint Vincent, we have been intensively working to create awareness on the current fiscal challenges and encouraging students to act by signing our pledge. We started our campaign building a fundamental ideology on what we intended to captivate as a tone and appeal. If not mistaken, our college with a population of about 1,636 undergraduates is the smallest populated university raising awareness on these issues. We knew our impact would only reach scale by reaching out to everyone. We wanted to do something historical and fundamentally lasting with our campaign. 

Wantoe (front left) and the team from the Up to Us campaign

The base point of our campaign was the slogan that ‘ending the national debt will create access to affordable health care, education, mitigate climate change and end homelessness.’ For instance, student loan debt has tripled between 1993 and 2013, and 92% of student debt is owed to the federal government. The cost of attending an institution for four-years has increased by 68% between 1993 and 2013 (after adjusting for inflation). Also, since September 2019, there were 62,391 homeless people, including 14,962 homeless families with 22,083 homeless children sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system.  

Climate change also requires a robust financial agenda. We found these issues relatable enough to build the conversation and campaign on at our College. As a means of greater engagement, we launched a research project focusing on U.S. fiscal issues in collaboration with the Class of 2022, the Center for Undergraduate Research, and the Fishlinger Center for Public Policy Research. Our Launch was covered by the Riverdale Press. We also organized a discussion panel with the Mount’s Model United Nations club and the Class of 2022, focusing on climate change, racial and economic inequality, and homelessness. 

Our campaign has set up an open symposium, raised awareness in the classroom and launched, a joint petition with nineteen non-profits at the City Hall. On the 15th of November,  we met with our college President, Dr. Charles Flynn.  The objective was to have a discourse with him on the drive behind our campaign. President Flynn was very animated and inspired by our campaign and pledged his support. He is passionate about students being aware of the impact of policies on their future and having an independent ambition to develop, adopt, enforce, and implement necessary solutions. 

Wantoe and Up To Us team meeting with Dr.Charles Flynne President of the College of Mount Saint Vincent

The competition has also allowed me to develop leadership skills and to create impact on civic issues. One of our wildcards was our November 14th fall show collaboration with our college club called Words Dance and Vocal Company. The fall show was a full talent show with amazing performances. 353 students participated in the event at Hayes Auditorium. We made a presentation and a call to action. Check our Speech Here. I believe inclusivity is essential in the national debt conversation. We included a joint awareness campaign with ECPI University. We spoke with over 500 students! And it was an amazing space gaining several perspectives of students on the growing debt and the future of the next generation.

I have always cared about policies, civic structures, and advocacy. Perceptibly, I care about this campaign because it resonates with my values and personal beliefs. I believe climate change will have a massive impact on our generation and have volunteered consistently to end homelessness and help other social issues. Securing a better fiscal solution for the United States will help resolve existing issues and secure a more structured economy for the next generation. For more on our campaign you can check out our campaign Summary Video.

Wantoe with the President of religious council of New York and other Non profit directors after presenting his petition to the New York City Mayor and City Council to ensure sustainable spending a robust plan to reduce current intra- Governmental  debt from At the City Government level.

If you would like to join the tens of thousands of my peers who have supported Up to Us to communicate that securing our fiscal future is an important priority for America’s next generation please sign our pledge here.


  • Wantoe Wantoe

    Wantoe is the President of the Class of 2022 at the College of Mount Saint Vincent Student Government Association. He is a Sustainable Development Goals Advocate and Writer for Restless development U.K. He also serves as a U.N Youth Representative of the Sisters of Charity Federation to the DGC and a Representative to the U.N working group on homelessness. At his College , he is a Co-Campus Director of the Millennium Campus Fellowship. In 2019, Wantoe Teah Wantoe was recognized with the The Diana Award which is highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts during its 20th anniversary. In 2018, Out of 20 Finalists from hundreds of submissions received from all the continents Wantoe Teah Wantoe emerged as the Winner for the Global Young Voices 2018 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) World Cup for his commitment to the SDGs and his project on Environmental Preservation in Liberia. He is a Certified 2018 Obama Foundation Community Leadership Asset and Dialogue Alumni and the 2017 Friendship ambassador Foundation Leadership Humanitarian award for his advocacy, and Leadership. He is a currently an honor student double majoring in Public policy and Sociology at the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York. At the start of the 2013 Wantoe was a member of global youth steering committee to develop and implement the Global Voice for Change project which supported young people around the world to connect, learn and advocate together. The project started in West Africa, with Wantoe, and within two years connected young people working with Plan International in over 14 countries advocating on issues including humanitarian action, climate change and girls’ rights. With this project Wantoe wrote Blogs highlighting the challenges of children and youth during the Ebola outbreak, participated in a regional video vlog with other youth from affected countries. Along with the National Children and Youth Advisory Board, they share prevention messages and curb a statistical data of the amount of children who had die and became orphans of the crisis, with guidance from the Defense for Children international Liberia. In September 2015, He participated in the crafting of the Doha Youth declaration on Reshaping the Humanitarian Agenda in Qatar and also spoke at the where he also shared the challenges of the Ebola on Liberians and west Africa charging global leaders toward building resilience in those country after a deadly pandemic. In May 2015, He participated and delivered a Preliminary Statement at the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul Turkey. His speech generated over 3,000 commitments to action and more than a dozen new partnerships and initiatives for a meaningful change for the world. In 2018 he served as a campus ambassador of friendship Ambassador Foundation rallying Liberians to attend the 21 session of the youth assembly in New York. His passion for African youth notably led his view on the Huff post in His Op-ed on the Day of an African Child.

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Young people must lead the conversation about US debt

by Wantoe Wantoe Reading time: 4 min