LUCERNE – Conrad Kiczenski is worried – about global warming, poverty and war. And he's only 15.
Those are the major issues that will impact his future, he said.
Rather than just worry, Conrad is moving his feet.
This Saturday, the teen hopes to inspire other young people from around the county to speak out in defense of their future at a 2 p.m. rally in Lucerne Harbor Park.
Lake County's version of the “Shut Down the War Machine” rally, which Conrad and friend Alie Stout have organized, is part of a series of protests scheduled in major cities around the U.S. that same day.
Saturday, events such as the “Gathering of Eagles” rally in Sacramento, will show support for U.S. troops in Iraq. Organizers say that rally is nonpolitical.
Conrad said he first heard about the nationwide rally on Myspace.com, which has emerged as an important social forum for teens.
“I decided, we got to get up and do something,” he said.
He and Alie, 15, began making fliers and putting them up around town, although many of them were immediately torn down, they reported.
That hasn't stopped them, though. In fact, they've been out every day putting up new fliers to replace those that went missing.
This isn't the first time the teens have been involved with political action.
Alie and Conrad met while attending Upper Lake High School. Last October, they were part of a student walkout to protest the war. Alie estimates 70 students left class Oct. 5, despite the fact that they were facing “dire consequences.”
They were both hassled and cheered on by other students and community members, she said. “The positive overruled the negative by far.”
All of the teens ended up receiving detention, she said.
Since then, Conrad left Upper Lake High to study in California Virtual Academy's home school program. He said the school system doesn't motivate original thinking.
The October rally, like Saturday's, was organized largely through Conrad's efforts using Myspace.com and posting fliers.
“I just really think it's a good cause,” said Alie. “This area needs more things for teens to do that are positive, not negative.”
Still, she said she's gotten a lot of negative comments from classmates, whose views have ranged from the rally being a “dumb” idea to the more ominous opinion that it will look bad on her resume when she prepares to go to college.
“I just kinda give 'em the cold shoulder,” she said. “They can say what they want.”
Both the teens say their parents have been very supportive of their work to organize the rally.
Do teens think much about the war in Iraq, and what it might mean for their future?
Conrad and Alie certainly do, but they said other teens either don't think much about it or, worse yet, don't have any hope that they can make a difference by speaking out.
They said the kids who do think about it a lot don't appear to hang out with the popular crowd.
Conrad believes a draft may be imposed soon, because, he said, “We're making enemies faster than we can kill them.”
What would they like to see happen at Saturday's rally?
“What we're trying to do is inspire people to stand up for their future,” said Conrad.
The rally will start at 2 p.m. Saturday in the picnic table area of Lucerne Harbor Park, Conrad explained. There will be an open mike for a discussion of both sides of the war issue.
Conrad and Alie say they want people of all viewpoints to come and share their thoughts “so we can learn from them,” added Conrad.
“I want to leave people inspired, with hope that they can make a difference, because that's really missing,” said Conrad.
He said he expects a pretty good turnout of both adults and teens.
Lake County Youth Action (LCYA), a group Conrad and Alie are helping organize, will meet at noon on Sunday at the Lucerne Senior Center, to discuss the rally and possible future events.
For anyone needing a ride to the rally, Conrad suggests visiting laketransit.org/systemmap.asp.
E-mail Elizabeth Larson at email@example.com.