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Blog: National Conference Raises Student Voices

Jul 08, 2010 | By Maureen Book, NETWORK Intern

Silence. No birds fly overhead, no fish are swimming, and no human person is around.  Instead, a thick layer of oil covers the ocean, leaving behind an acid smell that burns your throat and smothering every sign of life with complete and utter silence.

This is the picture that Gloria Reuben, an avid social activist, painted for us at the Campus Progress National Conference yesterday. She vividly described the oil spill in the gulf to which she recently visited and gave us a small glimpse of the catastrophe through photos she had taken.  The one recurring theme throughout her speech was the haunting silence that filled the oil-contaminated sea.

Yet Gloria Reuben had come to speak in front of hundreds of college-age students who were anything but silent. For one day, passionate students from all over the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to listen to a series of speakers and panelists and to raise their own voices about issues that greatly matter to them. I was greatly impressed by the energy and intelligence that the students brought to the conference, engaging in discussions and asking intellectual questions of the speakers. Here was America’s future generation of leaders, ready to make their voices heard on the tough issues that America faces.

The gulf oil spill and climate and energy were definitely hot topics of the day. Van Jones, a distinguished advocate for clean energy, urged students to fight for a transition to a green economy, asking if anyone had ever heard of a “wind slick” or a “sun spill” before. Other topics were also at the forefront of the discussion, including comprehensive immigration reform, the slow food movement, the economic recession, and the war in Afghanistan. Speakers from the White House, including Jim Messina and Samantha Power, were also there to inform students how activism and policy work at an executive level.

While the gulf coast may be permeate