Saeed Husain ’21 and HahYeon Lee ’22 attended the Athens Democracy Forum this year as student delegates, making it the third year in a row that Wooster students have participated. The annual conference in association with The New York Times brings together politicians, business leaders, writers, and many others together to discuss the state of democracy around the world. This year’s Forum, which was held from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, was held virtually due to COVID-19 and had the theme of “The New Abnormal: Reimagining Democracy.”
Husain, who is an anthropology major, and Lee, a philosophy and political science double major, were selected as student delegates from the College in a competitive process through the Global Liberal Arts Alliance (GLAA). Wooster partners with the GLAA, which sent 25 students from 15 different schools to the Forum this year.
Husain and Lee prepared for the conference with the other student delegates over the summer. “I participated in group discussion with peers from around the world, where we talked about the state of democracy in our home countries and where we currently were, analyzed and discussed political cartoons, and debated on some critical topics in global democracy,” Husain said. He participated in a debate on nationalism which is published on the Forum’s YouTube channel. Lee made a video speech about the power of religious beliefs in a democracy that was played before a panel discussion on the topic and also produced a summary of a panel with another student.
In response to a panel on the role of social media in democracy, Husain co-wrote an article entitled “The dualisms of social media” with Carolina Tallez, a student at John Cabot University in Rome, that ran in Kathimerini English Edition, a daily newspaper published in Athens. In the article, the students discuss their experiences using social media as international students and the benefits and drawbacks of its role in democracy. “Carolina is also interested in social movements and its intersections with social media, which we talk about in our piece,” Husain explained. “It was this meld of common interests and the availability of a platform where we could express our ideas that made this a really fun article to write.”
This year’s Forum particularly examined the effect that the COVID-19 crisis has had on democracies across the world. “The most significant thing that I learned is definitely that even in difficult times such as the current pandemic, democracy should and can be preserved,” Lee said. “I was impressed and encouraged that so many people from diverse backgrounds were committed to discussing democracy and improving our current systems of governance.”
This is the third year in a row that Wooster students have been present at the Athens Democracy Forum, as Marco Roccato ’20 attended in 2019 and Sabrina Harris ’19 did in 2018. “Marco was very helpful in my application process, and I feel honored to follow in his and Sabrina’s steps as Wooster delegates to the Forum,” Husain said. “I am super grateful that Wooster is involved with organizations such as the GLAA, which allows and facilitates its students to participate in global forums such as the Athens Democracy Forum. This was a really eye-opening experience which I sincerely hope future Wooster students can take advantage of.”