This story was written by Andrea Abi-Karam & John Kavouris, The Daily Free Press
Appearing as a surprise speaker at a conference at Boston University this past weekend, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and other leaders charged hundreds of students to vote and get involved in politics as the 2008 presidential election looms.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and BU professor Elie Wiesel and civil rights activist and former BU professor Howard Zinn also sent video messages advocating young voter participation at the Race to 2008 weekend conference in the George Sherman Union's Metcalf Hall.
While the forum was proposed to be nonpartisan, the featured speakers brought a liberal sentiment.
Kerry said after seven years of rule under the Bush administration, the younger generation that students represent must take charge and demand change because their demographic has not done enough to address political problems.
"You better believe your generation has a major problem staring at you in the face," the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate said during his 45-minute speech.
The country's foreign policies are aggravating, Kerry said.
"Many of us in Washington are deeply frustrated, and I'm as frustrated as I've ever been for the unwillingness of the system to listen to us," he said. "This is a failed foreign policy. It has not made America safer, and it is not making America safer today."
Also speaking at the summit was Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, who said he aims to increase student involvement in elections.
"My mission is twofold," he said. "I want to welcome you to the university, and I want you to go beyond 2008."
After giving a history of Boston's political involvement in civil rights -- including the abolition of slavery and advancements in gay rights -- Elmore encouraged students to "go out and be the person of your generation to speak for yourself."
Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, agreed with Elmore in his brief pre-recorded message, urging students to be engaged in the political process.
"I believe that politics and morality go together," Wiesel said. "The voting process is the foundation of democracy."
In his video message which concluded the conference, Zinn, a former College of Arts and Sciences political science professor, echoed the message.
"It is absolutely critical for young people to get together and to organize," he said. "The power of the people at the top depends totally on the obedience of people below."
Other speakers included Democracy for America Executive Director Arshad Hasan, who advocated voting and donating to political causes.
"Just because you're not 35 doesn't mean you can't have an impact on what goes on in Congress," Hasan said.
Students split into eight workshops afterward to discuss and debate policies including foreign and domestic policies, the war in Iraq, education, gay rights and campaign strategies.
Event organizer John Wheatley, president of the Boston College Democrats, said after Kerry's speech that even though Republicans and Democrats had the same opportunities to attend the summit, the Democrat point of view shone through.
"Well, you have a Democratic senator come -- you're going to get at least a somewhat Democratic speech," Wheatley said.
© 2007 The Daily Free Press via U-WIRE