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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mike Gravel to speak on campus

Published: April 4, 2008
Section: Front Page

Mike Gravel, former Alaskan Senator, and current Libertarian presidential candidate will speak at Brandeis on April 6. Gravel will speak in the Lown Auditorium at 8 p.m. His impending visit has sparked strong student reactions.

Sarah Linet ’10, who played a key role in planning the event, said, “I was really surprised by the widespread excitement…I think it shows that people are ready to hear an alternative perspective.”

Linet approached Students for a Democratic Society about inviting Gravel to speak on campus. Her father, a Brandeis alum, had interned with Gravel after college and had stayed in touch with him throughout the years.

According to Linet, SDS agreed to sponsor Gravel because “two of his platforms resonated with the club.” She specifically mentioned the former senator’s anti-war platform and his views on direct democracy.

While SDS is sponsoring the event, Linet emphasized that, “SDS does not endorse candidates,” she said, “[the club] is trying to increase the anti-war presence on campus.”

SDS member, Arthur Bergevin ’08, commented in an e-mail message, “Dissident views are so marginalized in the media that I think it is difficult to truly figure out what politicians such as Gravel stand for. Even if you disagree with Gravel, hearing him and having the opportunity to interact with him has the potential to be educational and thought provoking.”

Members of the community have voiced diverse opinions about Gravel’s role in history, his 2008 campaign, and his recent switch from the Democratic to the Libertarian Party.

On Mike Gravel coming to speak, David Miyashiro ’08 wrote in an e-mail, “Since no other presidential candidate has been to Brandeis campus this election, I am thankful that Brandeis is finally given a chance to hear from a real candidate.”

He also stated that he has respect for Gravel’s record of public service and Gravel’s contribution to the release of the Pentagon Papers. However, Miyashiro expressed concern that the event “will become a venting session for Senator Gravel to whine that he did not get fair treatment during the election.”

While Gravel participated in debates during the early Democratic primaries, he was eventually barred from the debates because he had not raised the required funds and had consistently low poll numbers.

“It is true that he was not given the same attention as candidates such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards, but Sen. Gravel needs to take a level of responsibility for this. Sen. Gravel does not inspire a new base of voters like Obama, nor does he project a sense of competence like Clinton, and I believe that much of this is due to his presentation of himself as a radical fringe candidate,” Miyashiro said.

Sahar Massachi ’11, after commenting on Gravel’s importance as a historical figure, especially during the 1970s, stated in an e-mail, “I consider Sen. Gravel to be a vanity candidate…It seems that Sen. Gravel likes the benefit of free media, but doesn’t want to put in the work that goes along with a real presidential campaign.”

“Gravel exposed uncomfortable truths about American Imperialism, Neo-Colonialism, the hawkish-ness of other candidates, and tried to dispel many of the right-wing myths regarding the September 11 attacks,” Massachi commented. “On the other hand, he undermines progressive democrats, tries to accomplish his goals through superficial visuals instead of building coalitions, and, most weirdly supports the regressive ‘fair tax.’”

Tatiana Tripp ’10, remarked that she “respected Gravel’s campaign as a Democratic candidate,” but she admitted to having reservations about Gravel’s switch to the Libertarian Party. “All of his stances that I agree with him on and respect him for are in direct opposition with what a traditional Libertarian might agree with.”

On Mar. 26, Mike Gravel officially announced on his campaign site his plan to join the Libertarian Party. He wrote, “[The Democratic Party] continues to sustain war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism—all of which I find anathema to my views.”

Phil LaCombe ’10, Campus Coordinator for Democracy for America, voiced disappointment about Gravel’s switch to the Libertarian Party, he said, “The Libertarian Party does not support universal healthcare, the social safety net, the rights of gays and lesbians, or reasonable gun laws; I support all of these and I thought that Mike Gravel did as well.”

However, LaCombe commented that he enjoyed Gravel’s alternative point of view during the Democratic Primary debates, specifically his stance against the war. “I found it interesting that he was the only candidate willing to address the problem of America’s dependence on the military to keep our economy going.”