Power addresses genocide

    Samantha Power, winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, gave a convocation speech in RIMAC arena on Oct. 8 as part of Eleanor Roosevelt College’s grand opening week. With several professors requiring students to attend the lecture, students filled approximately one-quarter of the 2,500 capacity arena until only standing room remained.

    “”The turnout was amazingly higher than I think any of us expected,”” said David Goodwin, chair of the Student Council at Eleanor Roosevelt College, which helped organize the event.

    Power, who won the Pulitzer for her book “”A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of the Genocide,”” gave a speech on apathy in America toward the issue of genocide, the lack of a consistent foreign policy since World War II, and the failings of the United Nations system. Both applauding the Bush administration for taking a stand in Iraq and concerned about the range of other interests that influenced the decision to go to war, Power avoided partisan criticisms and challenged UCSD students to speak up and help raise awareness about the issue of genocide.

    “”One of the things that’s notable about the American response to genocide is the silence on university campuses,”” said Power at a dinner reception with students preceding the speech. “”I think you’d be surprised how much students can achieve just by putting the issue on the policy radar. Say just you guys in this room were to decide to make Liberia your cause, to just learn everything you could about Liberia and then start sending letters to congressmen and all the cheesy stuff that people think doesn’t do any good. Just this number of people could actually succeed in convincing the policy makers that the issue is far more concerning than they had thought to the people.””

    During her address, Powers recounted her own experiences as a Washington intern and a freelance war correspondent in Yugoslavia and eventually executive director of the Carr Institute for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. She closed her speech with a plea to students to have confidence in their abilities to make a difference.

    “”Don’t let your understanding of what is possible or realistic interfere with your understanding of what’s desirable,”” Powers said. “”Be, I suppose, unreasonable. Secondly, don’t underestimate what you have to offer. With the values that brought you to UCSD, the thinking and writing skills they teach you here, you will be equipped to do good.””

    Sixth College freshman Russell Peavy, who attended both the convocation and the dinner, said he was inspired by her speech.

    “”Listening and learning to what she said about her own experiences, I can look ahead in mine and realize that with just some faint notion, you can achieve whatever you want, be it human rights or world domination,”” he said.

    Getting Power to speak was not an easy task.

    “”A massive amount of work [went into putting on this speech],”” Goodwin said. “”There’s been a grand opening committee since early last year involving people from all over the university. A whole bunch of people, a whole bunch of work.””

    Roosevelt Provost Ann Craig described the impact of having Power as a speaker.

    “”We wanted someone with whom students could relate, and we wanted someone who could speak in an engaging manner to an audience largely of students, and we wanted someone who would speak about a topic that reflected some of the issues in the world today that our students need to be thinking about,”” Craig said.

    Power’s speech, which was originally only going to be the convocation for Eleanor Roosevelt College, was part of a larger initiative to raise student awareness regarding global issues.

    “”The college provosts are trying to create convocations to bring students and faculty and community together to talk about issues of social, political and cultural significance,”” Craig said. “”It’s hard to find one that’s more important than the role of the U.S. in the world today.””

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