Former presidential candidate and Green Party activist Ralph Nader spoke to a packed room of USC students and professors in Doheny Memorial Library on Monday afternoon, encouraging them to become more astute in the political and civic spheres.
During his speech, titled “The Corporatization of Your Dreams,” Nader argued that the ideas students learn in college must be applied to civic engagement to make a difference in the current corporatized political structure.
“We all grow up corporate,” Nader said. “We all see just a tiny bit of reality, but if we grow up corporate we see even less of that reality.”
Nader believes corporations prevent citizens from accurately and fully analyzing the environmental and humanitarian issues and disparities plaguing our lives. To remedy this, Nader urges students to become engaged with civic involvement during college.
“The lesson of history is that it doesn’t matter what you know in your head if you don’t have the fire in your belly,” Nader said.
Nader stressed that without action, unchecked power of corporations and the government will not be corrected.
PolitiSCize, a new Program Board initiative to raise awareness of politics among students, brought Nader to campus to kick off its campaign.
The timing might have been fortuitous, as Nader has been traveling on a busy schedule: He flew directly from UC Berkeley, where he met with students, and will be speaking at Purdue University on Tuesday, according to Monica Parra, a Program Board member majoring in broadcast and digital journalism.
During a presidential election where young voters have faced criticism for lower enthusiasm, Para said the group selected Nader because they hoped he could inspire students.
“We wanted students to be motivated and have students leave here with the motivation to learn more about politics and engage more and to look forward to the upcoming elections as an opportunity to get involved,” Parra said.
Nader believes that “half of democracy is showing up” and claimed that the main reasons citizens refrained from their democratic rights were because they thought that they lacked the time, understanding and concern to engage the political sphere. Some students related with his views on their civic responsibilities.
“We need to increase our civic power, so I’ll definitely be thinking about that and hopefully looking into getting involved in sorts of civic engagement,” said Matthew Eighmy, a freshman majoring in environmental studies. “But it’s hard because people are always saying they are going to do things and don’t end up doing them.”
Even students who did not necessarily agree with Nader still found it refreshing to have his perspective on the politics during the final crucial weeks of the presidential campaign — in a time when politicians largely speak to voters only along party lines.
“I did not agree with all of his points, [but] I definitely admire his ability to speak what he actually believes and not just cater to political lines or say things for political gain,” said David Tobia, a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. “It’s good to hear someone who doesn’t have many reservations about their viewpoints and can speak from a humanitarian perspective.”
Nader left students with the insistence that college is the most important time for students to start believing in their civic responsibility.
“Now is the time to start asking these questions, because right now you’re as free as you’ll ever be to make your own decisions,” Nader said.
The PolitiSCize initiative’s next speaker will be New York Times journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof, who will speak to students about human rights abuses and social injustice on Nov. 5.