We want to thank the APA for putting on such a terrific symposium last weekend.
Seeing Bill Ayers was a thrill, not just because of his recent stint in the spotlight as Barack Obama’s terrorist “pal,” but because he was a smart and challenging speaker. Keith McHenry, one of the 100 most dangerous people in the country, hung out with students all weekend, going to potlucks and events around campus and regaling us with stories from his life. His lifelong dedication to Food Not Bombs was inspiring, and he was a really neat guy besides. Priya Warcry’s strength and passion shone through her videos and made us think about the power of alternative media.
The speakers were very diverse, by background and in terms of their work, but their talks shared a common theme: practical advice. Bill Ayers made us think about what it means to be a moral person and taught us how to get involved in activism now rather than silently lamenting the state of our world. Keith McHenry passed out literature about how we could start our own Food Not Bombs wherever we live, in Galesburg or after college. Priya Warcry showed us new ways to make a difference by spreading information that those in power might not want people to have.
We’d like to see a speaker like this do the commencement speech this year. Though John Podesta’s poker buddies have given excellent speeches and brought great publicity to Knox, they have all been representatives of the same genre of person: famous, high-powered politicians (and one pundit). There are movers and shakers in the world besides those planted in the upper crust of American politics. The speaker wouldn’t have to be an activist: artists, writers, scientists, musicians, and many others have gems of wisdom to contribute.
On our graduation day, as we nervously dip a toe into the real world, we would advice from someone a little easier to relate to. While it is certainly a great privilege to hear a luminary like Bill Clinton talk about politics, it might be nice to hear the opinion of an up-and-comer rather than an elder statesman already established in the world we’ll soon be entering.