from The Daily Cardinal

Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Rev. Sharpton delivers impassioned address
By Dinesh Ramde/The Daily Cardinal

Sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, but always impassioned, the Rev. Al Sharpton ignited a capacity crowd yesterday in the Memorial Union Theater as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series. Discussing issues from the 2004 presidential election to gay marriage, Sharpton encouraged students to never succumb to apathy.

Introduced to a standing ovation, the charismatic Sharpton told the supportive crowd President Bush and advisor Karl Rove conned the American public last year by diverting conversation from the real issues. Since a president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces and is responsible for domestic policy, he said these are the issues that should have dominated debates.

"But they had us debating gay marriage-whatever your view, that has nothing to do with the presidential office," Sharpton said.

He criticized the Democratic party for letting Republicans put them on the defensive, rather than attacking Republicans for their poor record on the war and domestic issues.

Sharpton also mocked Bush for being unable to find Osama bin Laden for almost four years, though bin Laden still puts out videos every few months.

"Osama puts out more videos than Mary J. Blige," he said to laughter.

The reverend also lauded the local hunger strikers protesting the tuition increase this week and told critics such extreme actions are sometimes necessary to publicize an injustice. As Martin Luther King, Jr. told him, protests are not meant to solve problems but to dramatize them, that only by exposing problems can one compel change.

He ended by urging students to action, reminding the crowd it was students who stopped the Vietnam war, students who helped end Jim Crowe segregation and students who made environmentalism an issue. Whatever way you choose, he said, do choose a way.

"History remembers those who stood and did something in their time. Everyone can't be on the front page, but everyone can do something," he said, his voice rising with emotion. "Have the courage to stand up for something you believe in so when you look in the mirror, you can see a person who made a difference."

Sharpton's closing remarks elicited another lengthy standing ovation.

UW-Madison senior Dwayne Myal hopes Sharpton's message was well-received.

"Some questioners seemed like they had a political axe to grind. I just hope he changed some minds," he said.

Fellow UW-Madison senior Amy Schultz was inspired by Sharpton's call to action.

"Being selfless, doing what's right, making a difference, I thought that was poignant," she said. "It was a great point to drive home. Bush-bashing aside, it was a great non-partisan point."

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