Mitchell Silver, the incoming New York City parks commissioner, highlighted the continued demographic changes coming to the United States with a plea to students for help in addressing them at Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday.
Silver was the keynote speaker at a Weglyn Multicultural Studies event titled “Workplace in Motion: Multiculturalism in the Professions.”
The talk by the outgoing planning director for Raleigh, N.C., in the Ursa Major room of the Bronco Student Center was titled “Planning for the Future: What’s Next? Who’s Next?”
“Things are going to change and you’re going to be a part of that as you move on in your profession,” Silver said to the more than 200 students who attended.
With the expectation that by 2040 a white majority in the United States will be no more, Silver says the question is how the country builds a multicultural future where economic, equity and environmental values are supported for everyone. And what kind of stuff is built?
For example, Silver asked where will the needed 50 or 60 million housing units be placed in the country to accommodate the expected growth in the next 50 years. Then there are the schools, retail establishments, highways or bridges that go along with them.
“So when people say, ‘I don’t want it to grow,’ they might as well as say, ‘I don’t want it to rain,’” Silver said. “The growth is coming. The question is how are we going to handle that growth and what will happen to our quality of life?”
The United States can expect about 124 million new residents over the next 50 years. The world will add another 2.3 billion people during that timeframe.
Silver urged the students, especially those with aims to be city or urban planners, to be “guardians of the future.”
“So students, we have stark challenges facing us in the 21st century,” Silver said. “Your community needs you, your state needs you, and your country needs you, and the planet needs you.”
After the talk, a panel consisting of Silver and alumni from the colleges of Business Administration, Engineering and Environmental Design discussed how they were able to achieve success in professional environments.
Silver’s talk and the panel discussion were jointly coordinated by the Colleges of Environmental Design, Engineering and Business. The event was supported by the Michi and Walter Weglyn Endowed Chair of Multicultural Studies.