Ralph Nader Recommends That College Students Become More Involved in Civics
Social justice and international affairs were addressed by Ralph Nader Monday night, March 26, at Peru State College. Nader addressed a large crowd at the College Theatre in the final program of the 2011-2012 school year’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
The audience included college students, staff and area residents.
Nader shared memories of Anthony Shadid, who was scheduled to speak March 26 at Peru State. Shadid, New York Times Beirut bureau chief, died suddenly in February while on assignment in Syria. Nader also addressed the corporate takeover of Americans. He recommended that college students become more involved in civics. After speaking for more than an hour, Nader answered questions from the audience.
Shadid was the greatest foreign correspondent of his generation, Nader said. Shadid received acclaim both professionally and personally, he said.
“He changed the way we looked at the Middle East with his reporting. He was humble. Humility was his way of learning. He will be remembered for his generosity and kindness,” Nader said of Shadid.
Shadid’s final book, House of Stone, was widely praised. Shadid will receive a third Pulitzer Prize posthumously. Nader said that Shadid was acclaimed because of his ability to speak Arabic fluently, his ability to put reports into historical context, writing about ordinary people and his personality.
The Middle East is the magnet for a lot of bad policy in the United States, Nader said.
He said that oil is viewed as not just the riches, but the curse of that area. Nations with such resources are tempted not to develop in other areas, making them targets for Western control and intervention, Nader said.
College students were recommended to learn the skills of civic action. Nader said that college students need to leave a civic legacy for those who will follow them. He recommended a civic skills course. The younger generation has the opportunity to make a difference in the world, Nader said.
“The younger generation needs to get more serious. We’re not learning life skills in schools. We need to learn citizen skills, humanity and history,” he said.
While the United States has no major enemy, half of federal government expenditures go to military contracts and operations, Nader said.
“We’ve lost adherence to our Constitution. We’ve militarized foreign policy and the State Department. Many feel that they’re losing control more and more over everything that matters in their lives. The loss of control affords us an opportunity to ask ourselves, how can we have democracy if we don’t spend any time on it,” he said.
A large majority of Americans believed that the United States is going in the wrong direction, that large corporations have too much control over their lives and that both major political parties are not delivering, Nader said. He cited low voter turnouts in presidential, Congressional and local elections.
“Politicians flatter us, flummox us and fool us,” Nader said.
“Families were never meant to have their children raised by corporations. We all pay a price for that. It starts in the governmental public arena, not in the commercial arena,” he said.
A humanitarian superpower brings out the best in all of us, not a military superpower, Nader said.
More than one billion people live on $1 or less daily, he said.
“It’s so inexpensive to save lives to provide people with decent sanitation, water, nutrition, minimum health care and education. It costs less than what you’re spending in Afghanistan. We need to put our best hopes and lifesaving ways forward,” he said.
Nader said that most people know what a good society should be like. While the American economy has increased its productivity 25 times since 1900, there are still large numbers of Americans who are underinsured or have no health insurance. American military policies are also out of control. Americans pay the highest price for medicine in the world. Most important issues are not discussed in political campaigns, he said.
A four-time presidential candidate, Nader cited several American reform movements. He called the Populist movement the strongest reform movement in American history. The Populist movement, among farmers, was from 1887-1912. Many who worked with that movement lacked paved roads, electricity, telephones and electronic communication.
“We’re still benefitting from it. Those who fought slavery and those who gave women the right to vote started with nothing except a concept of social justice,” Nader said.
Americans need to take responsibility for their representatives and senators in Congress, he said.
“We need to realize that the pivot of change in the United States is in Congress. It has the most power under the U.S. Constitution. We need to make them accountable to the people. We can turn this around. We need to join together with one another,” Nader said.
He said that one thing the public wants from Congressional websites is the voting record of their senators and representatives.
“We’ve allowed too much power in too few corporate hands making the decisions for the many. There’s too much greed and too much power in too few hands over the rest of the world. Let’s talk about waging peace, not waging war. Waging peace wins on all accounts,” he said.
Peru State President Dan Hanson thanked all who were involved in organizing the Distinguished Speaker Series. Hanson said that it was an honor for college officials to be host of someone with the vision, reputation and persuasive influence of Nader. Hanson also thanked the Peru State Ambassadors for their assistance with the program. Nader was introduced by Madison Farris of Nebraska City, senior education major.
“The best way to learn is to be actively involved in the learning process. We’ve had fascinating speakers over the past couple of years,” Hanson said.
The Speaker Series was established in the fall of 2010 as part of the commitment of college officials to student involvement and success. Plans are to announce the 2012-2013 Distinguished Speakers in April.