Looking back six years ago (part 1)

In the first day of my 8th grade social studies class, our teacher, Mr. Durkee, put up a poster of Michael Jordan in the act of making a slam dunk. We couldn’t tell whether Mr. Jordan was going up or falling down, Mr. Durkee told us, just by looking at the picture. We had to understand history in order to predict the future or whatever.

Now, first of all, that piece of advice did not need to take up three days of class time. Secondly, if you looked at his shoelaces, you could tell that Michael was clearly on the descent of his jump.

That said, there’s value in that perspective. To that end, let’s take a magical history tour and review the Fall 2002 State of the Union address, given by noted Brandeis Alumn and all-around kickass person, Ben Brandzel.

The Fall 2002 State of the Union address is hosted on the Student Union Website. I’m going to be referring to it quite a lot, so make sure you keep it open in another tab or something.

Why are we focusing on this address in particular? Simple. This speech has been floating around the Brandeis Progressive Community for ages now. It should have a bigger audience. Also, if you’ll follow me below the fold, I think you’ll agree with me that ther eare many parallels between the time of that speech and right now. Let’s see what has changed (or hasn’t) in the course of six years…

Hey, I just realized something. Fall 2002 was when I started 8th grade. So this speech was given at around the same time as I was in Durkee’s class. Weird.

This is Part ONE of the analysis of the speech.


This is the intro. Not much of interest here, except that Brandzel goes out of his way to use pro-democracy rhetoric – “you recognize that democracy is more than just an occasional vote”, adding “the vital dimension of dialogue to this democratic discourse”, etc.


This section talks about the new Shapiro Campus Center. It’s weird – the SCC was just constructed around this time. There’s talk about how Shapiro has enhanced student life but not to the exclusion of Usdan. Here we see hints of the Usdan game room that exists today. Yet I hear rumors that the game room is being turned into a super C-store soon. And if Shapiro was just constructed 6 years ago, that means that all those permanent club rooms that exist there now – SSIS, SEA, WBRS, The Hoot/Justice etc. All those clubs didn’t have permanent homes until Shapiro came along.


Media. Apparently the Hoot used to be called the Indie, and just showed up at that time. wasn’t around back then, and The Indie is a now-dead publication. (thanks to Justin Sulsky for the correction) Which is cool. Also BTV used to be a player back in the day. 24-hour programming. Wow. Now it’s a joke. Which is a shame; BTV has a lot of promise. Or at least the technology at BTV does. I wish someone would make a hipster indie / progressive music and politics show. That would be cool. The old BTV played classic movies and so on. Why can’t BTV today play creative-commons licensed video from the web? They could pull stuff from TED talks or Rocketboom or anything you could get through Miro or whatever. That would cost 0$, fill up programming time, and have the side effect of being Totally Awesome. (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Brandeis Idol, which was pretty cool last semester)

But where BTV has faded from the scene, the Hoot and now us, Innermost Parts, are gaining steam.


Diversity now, the heavy stuff. Money quote:

There is perhaps no challenge more important, and no challenge more difficult, than the great struggle to successfully manage diversity. It is the question of whether we are capable of embracing every part of ourselves, and whether or not the majority is strong enough to act in respect and recognition of the minority. Can we hold together as a community, or do we break apart as factions?

This section is really a big deal. I think it’s the subject of a whole post by itself. Which is what will happen. So let’s skip this until part three of this mini-series.


Talking about Iraq –

Almost 400 students, faculty and staff, including myself, expressed our opposition to the war and pledged to walk out together if and when the war breaks out, so that we can react to this major world event first and foremost as a Brandeis community. The goal is to prepare teach ins and discussion groups before hand, so that war, if it does occur, will find Brandeis ready to react through education, discussion, and action.

I think this measure of commitment on behalf of Brandeis students and community members displays a remarkable level of social conscience and cognizance of our connection to the outside world and our responsibilities as moral actors within it. It is these qualities which make me so proud to be a Brandeis Student, and this effort is a fine showcase of them at their best.

Here’s a Brandeis Student Union president clearly expressing support for causes he believes in, that he believes follows the great social justice tradition of this University. The current Student Union would do well to learn from his example.

So that was part one. Part two will cover sections 6-10 of the speech, and part three will double back to talk about part 4 (diversity) along with concluding thoughts.


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