‘Student activism has great potential to influence our society'

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:58

Washington, D.C. - As I boarded a crowded school bus in the wee hours of the frigid Saturday morning with my friend, Leah Arpadi, the excitement created by my anticipation, thankfully, overwhelmed my feelings of discomfort. It was Sept. 24 and finding Warwick Town Hall at 4 a.m. was quite a triumph for my mother, who dropped my friend and me off to catch the bus to Washington, D.C. Leah and I were attending an anti-war demonstration organized by United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 1,300 local and national groups throughout the United States. Our busmates were organized by the Orange County Peace and Justice Coalition. Leah and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, courtesy of a plentiful food supply, an iPod with about 50 minutes of battery power and live guitar music. Six hours later, we arrived in Washington, DC. Leah and I became immediately separated from our fellow Orange County demonstrators in the massive crowd. Before the march, there was a rally featuring many speakers, including a few inspirational words from Cindy Sheehan. Leah and I walked around The Ellipse and surrounding grounds, mingling with activists and checking out booths with a staggering array of anti-Bush and anti-war resources. Groups present included the National Organization for Women (NOW), Clergy and Laity Concerned About Iraq, and Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Two hours later, covered in buttons and stickers and weighed down with literature, Leah and I returned to Constitution Avenue to get ready for the “Massive March.” Unfortunately, there was a delayed start, but Leah and I passed the time dancing to the drumbeat of a percussion group from a North Carolina college. After roughly 30 minutes of dancing, we walked through the crowd and talked to people of all ages, from all over the country. We marched for a few hours, but then had to leave to catch the bus back home. Why did Leah and I decide to take this trip? To speak. To be heard. “It’s kind of hard to answer (why I went) without sounding pretentious and completely unoriginal, but I believe that the world has potential to be great and peaceful,” Lean said. “Yet the way the current American government is going about it’s part in the world’s affairs is becoming progressively more detrimental to not only American citizens, but those of the foreign nations we are dealing with.” For me, I went because I dislike the way the Bush administration is handling our foreign affairs. This event was inspirational. It was beautiful to see so many people congregate for one common belief. I met people who oppose the Iraqi War, including a quiet woman in a wheelchair (holding a sign reading “Bush’s war is handicapping our country”), an old couple from Texas, a rowdy group of middle-aged couples from Las Vegas and many families with their young children. I met college students from Rochester, New York City, North Carolina, Maryland and many other places. I even ran into my friend who graduated from Monroe-Woodbury last year, Sara Pette. We all came to Washington, DC, to tell Democrats and Republicans alike that the occupation of Iraq must end. We were all there to communicate one message, and with more than 100,000 people present, I believe the message was clear. The march and rally also had many messages of support for the people of the Gulf Coast. Many people had T-shirts reading “Make levees not war.” This was the second large march I have attended, the first being the anti-Bush rally outside the Republican National Convention in Manhattan during September 2004. That was inspiring, but this march touched me on a much more personal level. All of the people I met had their own story and reasons for being at the march. We came together for one cause. We all chanted and shouted together. On the bus, I heard stories as well. I met a concert pianist, a vegetarian lawyer, a high school freshman, and many other people with different backgrounds. I have grown up in a liberal household. I consider myself to be not only a political activist, but also a human rights activist, affiliating myself mainly with Amnesty International. I believe that student activism has great potential to influence our society. I went to D.C. because I believe that war is morally wrong. And I believe, the economist and philosopher Ludwig von Mises noted: “If men do not now succeed in abolishing war, civilization and mankind are doomed.” Lucie Jaronowski is a senior at Monroe-Woodbury High School. She is president of the school’s Amnesty International group.