Generation Citizen, a non-profit civic education group, hosted a panel discussion about advocacy on Tuesday night featuring speakers including Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez, the former Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finances.
The event, co-sponsored by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, also included American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts Field Director Matt Allen as well as graphic artist and activist Chaz Maviyane-Davies, with juniors Annie Roome and Tess Ross-Callahan as moderators.
The panel discussion lasted for about 50 minutes and was followed by a fair that featured advocacy education and activities from groups including ACLU at Tufts, Generation Citizen, Students for Environmental Awareness (SEA), Tufts Amnesty International, Tufts Democrats and Tufts Students for National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).
The panel discussion began after Roome introduced the three speakers, who spoke about their experiences as professional advocates.
Maviyane-Davies discussed his work in Zimbabwe, which is governed by oppressive dictator Robert Mugabe. He said that the most important year in his activism was 2000, when Mugabe allegedly mobilized his supporters to harass and kill opposition members. In that year, Maviyane-Davies chose to use the internet to spread graphic commentaries about the opposition.
“We knew he was going to rig the election anyhow, anyway,” Maviyane-Davies said. “I realized that there was no way that people are going to be able to react.”
Gonzalez began his remarks by quoting former President Barack Obama’s farewell address. He stressed that civic engagement in government is critical to securing rights and liberties.
“As long as I can remember, I always believed in the power of government,” Gonzalez said. “There is no institution like government that is serving all of our interests and has the ability to make real progress.”
He added that he wants to make a difference through government by becoming the governor.
“I really believe that government should constantly be working with a sense of urgency to move us forward and make progress on issues that are holding [us] back,” he said. “And that’s why I am running for governor.”
Gonzalez later told the Daily in an interview that he encourages everyone to be politically engaged and make their voices heard.
“I would encourage all of our young people, in particular, but everybody to find that vehicle for [civic engagement] … to act and be engaged in a positive way,” he said.
He argued that his possible competitors for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, none of whom have formally announced a run, have valuable experience, but that his skill set fits the job.
“We need leadership to take on the big challenges … and to make progress, and I think I’m going to bring the best set of experience and the best record to successfully do,” he said. “I am not a career politician who’s just looking to get his next elected office. I am doing this because I care about people.”
When asked if Newton mayor and potential candidate for governor, Setti Warren, is a career politician, Gonzalez responded, “I think [Warren] has been mayor for eight years.”
During Allen’s remarks at the panel, he pointed out that advocacy work is about more than talking to the press and that it is most successful when organizers make calls, collect data about organizations or conduct other more difficult tasks.
“In [advocacy] work, there is always a lack of folks who want to do the hard, boring, repetitive stuff that is necessary to make things come together,” Allen said. “Whoever is speaking to the press [or] whoever is testifying, that is just one small of piece of successful campaign.”
The panel discussion ended with a short question-and-answer session. The following fair lasted for about 30 minutes and different campus organizations took questions from the attendees or handed out informational pamphlets.
SEA Co-Director Alexa Bishopric said she was happy to attend the event and present the goals of her organization.
“I thought it was really well put together, and it would just have been great if we had a bit more people people come, because I believe events like this at Tufts have so much to offer,” Bishopric said.