Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nader encourages civic duty, strikes nerve with students

by Tracy Taylor

Ralph Nader came Monday night armed with words and pleas to set student hearts ablaze for issues of civic duty and social injustice.

"If not for the forbearers, you wouldn't be here. All social injustice movements start with someone who has no power," Nader said. "The difference between us and [the forbearers] is they didn't make excuses for themselves."

Nader attempted to deplete the "I don't have time" mentality amongst students when he gave his lecture, "The Mega Corporate Destruction of Capitalism & Democracy," on Monday, Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. in the GRW Theatre. It was also apparent he wanted to notify students that they have been inexcusably forced to "grow up corporate."

"I've never met a student or a person who doesn't have a sense of injustice," Nader said.

Point Park University President Paul Hennigan and Channa Newman, a global cultural studies professor, said one of the goals of hosting such a prominent yet unique individual like Nader is to expose students to a point of view that is often clouded by the traditions of the mainstream and to encourage civic responsibility.

"It never occurred to me that you can just go to city council meetings and courtrooms as a spectator," Dylan Grunn, a freshman broadcasting major, said. "It made me want to do that more."

"It was important for me, as far as getting more civic-minded, taking that more seriously and starting a civic group," D.J. Kingsbury, a senior psychology major, said.

He also said he was seriously considering starting a civic group in correlation with the other clubs in which he is a member.

"I thought it was really cool because I've never actually seen a political figure talk before, and I thought it was great that it was at Point Park," Kayla Stone, a freshman broadcasting major, said.

The four-time presidential candidate and consumer advocate defined a civic personality as a person who is passionate about one or two issues that they are capable of truly impacting.

An issue that Nader referenced was his first major civic endeavor of investigating and improving the safety standards of automobile manufacturers. He said he felt it was his duty to fight for safer cars after many of his friends died in preventable, yet horrendous, automobile accidents.

"Are colleges just high-priced trade schools?" Nader asked.

He jokingly referenced his own higher education experience at Harvard Law School as a "high-priced tool factory."

Nader encouraged Point Park to establish a civics course, which could be designed around handling real-life issues, and he said one of the best ways for students to engage is to become involved with politics.

He also cited the local Pittsburgh issues of taxpayer-funded arenas and entertainment facilities, as well as the decline of steelworkers, as issues students can become involved in.

Nader also promoted his latest book, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" The book is a fictional account of real-life figures, like Warren Buffet, fighting the corporate headlock of the American economy and establishing a practical utopia focused on citizen interests.

The lecture was sponsored by the School of Arts and Sciences and the global cultural studies program. Students arrived at the event as early as 4:30 p.m. Lynn Monahan, director of academic administration for the School of Arts and Sciences, said every single ticket for the event in the GRW Theatre was taken. Overflow seating was sent to University Center rooms 213 and 219, as well as the JVH Auditorium.

Erin Lloyd, a sophomore dance and global cultural studies major, arrived early without an actual ticket to the event. She said Newman told her she would find a way for Lloyd to attend the event, even if she needed to volunteer by handing out tickets.

"My dad voted for him in every election he's been in. He's one of my dad's heroes. He really encouraged me to come," Lloyd said.

Lloyd was one of several students who attended a small group session with Nader for the media and global cultural studies students prior to the lecture. Nader told those present that the lecture was a culmination of his experiences over the years, and he said he wanted to give people a sense of their potential power.

"So, when you reach 65," Nader said, "and your grandchild comes to you and asks, 'Grandma, Grandpa, what were you doing when this world fell apart on us?' You don't respond, 'Well, excuse me, grandchild, I was just too busy updating my Facebook profile."

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