Advertise - Print Edition


Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Search


Sections


The Brandeis Hoot has moved. Please visit BrandeisHoot.com

Activist alum speaks to DFA

Published: April 20, 2007
Section: Front Page


On Sunday, April 14, five years after former Student Union President Ben Brandzel 03 made his State of the Union address urging students to participate in a walkout if the United States went to war with Iraq, Democracy for America (DFA) brought Brandzel back to Brandeis to speak about his post-undergraduate experiences in the world of social activism.

The event, held in the Shapiro Campus Center Atrium, attracted students from activist clubs and student government interested in hearing about the importance of social action on the Brandeis campus and beyond.

During his four years at Brandeis, Brandzel dedicated himself to social justice. As Student Union President, he mobilized students to protest the war in Iraq. He founded the Collegiate Click Drive in his junior year, which has raised thousands of dollars for micro-credit based anti-poverty efforts through the click-to-donate website PovertyFighters.com.

Since graduating, he has worked for MoveOn.org as Advocacy Director and founded MoveOn Student Action to boost youth participation in elections. He also worked on the Oxfam Make Trade Fair campaign, worked for the Howard Dean campaign and is currently working for the John Edwards campaign as Director of Online Communications and Organizing.

In his speech, Brandzel presented reflections from the perspective of someone exactly like you, he said.

Brandzel said many students often wonder, does what we do here last? and does it matter in the grand scheme of things? His answer was an emphatic confirmation to both questions, and he urged students to dream big, work together, and never give up.

Brandzel explained that students involved in campus activism will take the skills they acquire and networks they make during their time at Brandeis with them when they leave. He said his experiences of door-to-door campaigning for student government prepared him for his later work with the Make Trade Fair campaign and the Howard Dean campaign.

Throughout his speech, Brandzel gave various examples of landmarks in the history of social activism at Brandeis, such as a referendum to stop selling Kraft products in the C-Store because the company was owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris, as well as the successful campaign to achieve pay parity for Brandeis workers. However, he noted that there is still much to be done, pointing out that the Activist Resource Center still does not have its own space on campus.

He also addressed the dilemma students face as they try to juggle their activities with their studies. He described college as a chaotic system full of conflicting decisions and demands and asserted that the great disease in American culture is that moral discernment is not taught.

I hope that every student realized their potential to affect their campus, their country, and their world[and] came away with a deep sense of pride in Bens achievements, and a newfound understanding of how effective and important his or her own actions can be, said DFA Treasurer and former Co-Chair of the Student Government Committee on Social Justice Jamie Ansorge 09, who is an advocate for collaborative efforts between the activist community and student government.
DFA will continue to pursue all speakers with ties to political activism. We were proud to host Ben Brandzel, and will continue our efforts to bring political officials, candidates, and activists to Brandeis as long as we exist, he added.

He also addressed the dilemma students face as they try to juggle their activities with their studies. He described college as a chaotic system full of conflicting decisions and demands and asserted that the great disease in American culture is that moral discernment is not taught.

Student Union President Shreeya Sinha, a self-described activist at heart, attended the event and wrote in an email to The Hoot, I thought Ben Brandzels speech was very moving and his experience is one that is still very relevant and prevalent to our Brandeis Community. It is important that Brandeis alumni come and speak about activism because we are essentially continuing their legacyMy heart lies with the activist community and this year I would like the Student Government to work hand in hand with activists to rise to the challenge and help a cause above and beyond our own.