Dining with Democracy
New Speaker Series Launches with Ralph Nader
Pitzer senior Nick Kislinger, creator of the Dining with Democracy speaker series, brought Ralph Nader to campus in October to chat with a small group of students, faculty and staff over dinner at the Grove House. Nader then spoke to an audience of nearly 1,000 attendees in Bridges Auditorium. Students and members of the public listened intently to Nader’s inspirational speech about leadership, responsibility and social change.
The speech, spanning approximately two hours, was followed by an hour-long Q&A session, covering topics from the American duopoly to lobbyists to large corporations to commercialism to health care and more. The underlying theme of Nader’s responses, though, was the same: People are responsible for their future. “Personality and character is destiny,” he explained.
Nader outlined several ways in which the government and larger corporations limit peoples’ “points of entry” to information, thus limiting their chances of making informed decisions and marring the democratic system. He asked, “Where is the rule of law to hold the government and corporations accountable?” To fix this problem, Nader called for the creation of accountability amongst citizens.
The largest obstacle that people must face, Nader explained, is current widespread apathy. People have lost their sense of social responsibility, he stated, and have chosen instead to focus on mundane subjects rather than those of great importance. Nader called for people to “question the small talk and replace it with big talk.”
Most importantly, Nader mentioned colleges as an “untapped market” of information and social change. While MIT is inventing new ways to power motor vehicles and Caltech is building windmills, Nader asks why all we see is college football.
Nader suggested creating a “civic skills” course at The Claremont Colleges for the sole purpose of teaching students how to be responsible citizens in a social democracy. When he asked for a show of hands, nearly all of the students responded that they would be interested in taking such a course.
Finally, Nader asked who of the audience members planned on becoming leaders after their formal education. Again, many students raised their hands, to which Nader commented, “It’ll be rocky, but never more gratifying. . . . You’ll never feel you missed out on the justice bandwagon.”
—Jaime Swarthout ’09
About Dining with Democracy
Dining with Democracy (DWD) is a new lecture series aimed at bringing today's leaders to Pitzer College to inspire those of tomorrow. Integral to the program is the stimulating pre-lecture dinner discussion with a small group of students, faculty and staff at the Grove House.
Consumer advocate, lawyer, author and 2000 presidential candidate Ralph Nader was the series' inaugural speaker in October.