By Laura Angus, OU Student Writer
Noted environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke on politics and the environment to a packed house in the Oakland Center Banquet Rooms as part of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Celebrating the Liberal Arts Environmental Explorations initiative. The event was sponsored by the Student Life Lecture Board.
Kennedy stressed that the audience of more than 600 students, faculty, staff and community members get involved and get informed in government and environmental issues.
“Our democracy cannot function long if we don’t have an informed public,” he said.
During the Oct. 5 lecture, Kennedy spoke out against the news media for not standing up to politicians and for focusing too much on entertainment, rather than important news Americans need to know. Only about 4 percent of television news is on the environment, he said, adding that of those, most of the stories don’t touch on any serious environmental issues.
He also criticized President George W. Bush and his administration for poor environmental policies and for allowing corporations to hijack the government, listing examples of President Bush naming business people who lobbied against environmental laws to positions that are responsible for protecting the environment.
“This is not the exception, this is the rule,” he said.
Kennedy told the crowd he would be making the same criticisms if Bush were a Democrat. He also said good environmental policies do not have to negatively impact business.
“There is nothing radical about clean air and clean water for our children,” he said.
Kennedy spoke for more than an hour with no notes. During his speech, he was interrupted several times by roaring applause from the audience.
He ended his speech with a proverb: “We did not inherent the land from our ancestors, we borrowed it from our children.” And he added that if we don’t return it on to our children in the condition we got it, we will have to answer some very serious questions in the future.
Following his speech, Kennedy took several questions from the audience concerning environmental issues, activism and political issues. One audience member asked whether the public would get the chance to vote for a Kennedy again as the audience cheered. Kennedy said he has thought about running for office, but he is going to wait until his six children are older.
“It was very informative,” said Oxford resident Patricia McDonald, who heard about the lecture through her son who is a student at OU. “I’m an advocate of the environment so I wanted to hear what he had to say.”
OU senior Heather Brewer said she came to see Kennedy speak because it is related to the causes she is involved in. Brewer serves as the president of OU’s Women’s Issues Forum and manager of the new Gender and Sexuality Center.
“It was very inspiring,” she said. “You walk away as an activist asking ‘What can I do?’”
Kennedy was brought to OU by the Student Life Lecture Board, with funding from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information on other Celebrating the Liberal Arts Environmental Explorations events, visit the Environmental Explorations Web site.