Democracy Matters National Summit: 2/1/14

So, this weekend I traveled north with 4 other McDaniel students for the annual Democracy Matters Summit in Albany, New York. We drove to Albany on Friday after all of us were finished our classes for the day and arrived around 9:30pm, in time to watch the majority of the movie that was scheduled. It was a good movie, and it made some really good points about how money in politics influences the United States and in the movie, a professor is talking to his students on their last day of class and he explains to them that he believes all of them have the potential to change the world, if they are truly willing to fight for it and to work for it. 

On Saturday morning, the conference properly began since many of the schools that lived near Albany did not attend on Friday night. The welcoming remarks were made by Adonal Foyle, the founder of Democracy Matters and Joan Mandle, his adopted mother and the Executive Director of Democracy Matters. He talked about how having professors for parents shaped his world view, but also about how in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, everyone voted and it was a huge deal not to vote. He explained how shocked he was when he learned how few people vote in the United States and the issues with political participation. He also talked about how a professor in his college started his thinking by simply stating “Young people are apathetic” and making them discuss. It was a great introduction because it showed his own personal involvement and why he cared. Joan ended the remarks by talking about what people need in order to be passionate and to get others involved. 

Our first session of the day was a break out session in which people got into groups and talked about campus organizing and what methods worked at each other’s schools and what didn’t. It was a great chance to brainstorm with students from different schools and different areas as well. During the session, we came up with some interesting ideas for events in the upcoming semester to try and involve more students. My group had its break out sessions with Anita Kinney, who is my national coordinator and also came to our campus to speak in the fall. We then had a variety of speakers.



The first speaker was someone from Citizens United talking about the current actions trying to get Public Financing passed in New York because they finally got the governor to put it on the budget agenda and now they need it put in the final budget in April. It was an okay session, but it talked a lot about how the New York schools could help, but left out the rest of the groups other than mentioning a new resolution called the Government for the People Act that is supposed to be introduced on the national level soon. The next speaker was Jay Mandle, an economist, who talked about the idea of elections as a public good and put forth the argument that if tax dollars are used to publicly fund elections, it limited the ability of corporations and wealthy individuals to influence politics so extensively. 

My favorite speaker was the last official speaker of the day, Rosemary Rivera, because she invited volunteers to talk about how a lot of people can help make a bully back down, and then applied it to social justice, economic justice, and more. Myself, Mehar, Alyssa, and Phil were all a part of that demostration. 



The picture above is Rosemary, Mehar, and Adonal at the start of the demostration. During the first part, Adonal acted as a bully since he is very tall and Mehar was the victim. When Adonal asked Mehar for his money, Mehar denied having any. Adonal asked Mehar what was in his pocket, and of course our resident science person responded that he had uranium in his pocket and the entire room cracked up. Then, Rosemary called for Mehar’s friends (ask the McDaniel group) to come join him so the rest of us went up there and we demostrated how bullies tend to back off when they are outnumbers, which them applied to the politicians and the corporations. If we get enough people behind a movement, then people can have a louder voice than the money flowing into politics. Nevertheless, it certainly is not easy to get enough people nowadays. 

After the final speaker, we went back into our break out groups for another session dedicated to planning events in a SMART manner. It talked about different planning techniques that could be used to make an event successful and reach a wider audience. It was a useful session and a great way to end the day because we all had to plan a hypothetical event with people from different schools that used the different SMART techniques. It was really neat seeing what different groups came up with and it was a great idea starter for events for the Spring semester. 


Overall, I enjoyed the conference and I definitely learned some new techniques, new information, and more. Plus, it was great to get to know more professionals in public activism and hear their recommendations on how to plan for the future. 



Hunger Games: Blog 2

 Write an analysis of the parallels between the tributes in the arena and the Gladiators in old Rome. How can we apply the notion of “panem et circenses” to The Hunger Games. OR Discuss the similarities and differences between The Hunger Games and the Theseus-Minotaur story.

There are many parallels that can be found between the idea of the Hunger Games and the Gladiators of Ancient Rome. First of all, there were two types of Gladiators, which parallel the Tributes for the Hunger Games. Many gladiators were slaves, forced into the arena for a chance to win their freedom or to pay a debt. This mirrors the situation in many of the districts, where tributes were selected during the reaping, but if they managed to survive it would mean a drastically better life for them and their family in regards to having enough to eat and a comfortable living environment. However, even after winning the games, tributes were still slaves to the Capitol and forced to remain public figures in order to keep their comfortable life. There were also professional Gladiators that worked for fame or money in the Arena. They trained before entering the arena and were often much better prepared than their opponents. The Professional Gladiators show a clear parallel to the idea of the Careers in the Hunger Games. These people would train for their entire life to take part in the Games and to earn fame and fortune in their own district.


The notion of Panem et Circenses translates to Bread and Circuses and that is extremely relevant to the idea of the Hunger Games. For one, the nation in which the Hunger Games exist is known as Panem and the people of the different districts can get extra grain to help their family survive in turn for extra entries into the reaping. This relates to the idea of the Gladiatorial battles because the citizens would receive food and gifts during the larger Arena Games as well. Furthermore, both the Hunger Games and the Gladiatorial battles were treated like large parties for the rich and famous. People would eat to excess, joke, laugh, and treat it as entertainment. Gambling was a big factor in the Gladiator Battles and the Hunger Games as well, people would bet on who would survive. Furthermore, both the Gladiators and the Hunger Games had a “Game Maker” who dictated the manner of the fights and the rules of the game. Even the author acknowledges that she used the idea of the Gladiatorial Battles to help shape her conception of the Games. 


Hunger Games: Blog 1

Prompt: Why did you choose this class? What are you hoping to accomplish in the course? What is your favorite character of The Hunger Games and why? 

I first read The Hunger Games on a hot summer afternoon. I had the day off from work, and I just wanted to escape reality for a while. When I started to read, I was quite impressed by the authors ability to draw the reader in to a world that is very different than the one most of us grew up in. I chose to take the class on this series for a couple of reasons. When I started reading, I was gripped by the different issues that Katniss had to navigate just to exist in her society, let alone the troubles she faced after volunteering to take her sister’s place as tribute. I am intrigued by the different aspects of their society, how each district works, and how the society was able to exist in that manner for as long as it did. Further, the complex interplay between Peeta and Katniss is interesting, especially when they are put in situations that they have no control over and forced to excel. 

Through this course, I am hoping to gain a greater understanding of this series, the people, and the society as a whole. While I personally study political science, so many of those aspects already make sense to me, the decisions of a lot of the characters confused me. The book often portrays different districts based on a very general stereotype of the people and what they produce, but I’d like to take a deeper look at the make-up of the different districts and why they lived under this system long enough for there to be 75 Hunger Games by the second book. Further, I want to understand more about different characters and what motivated their decisions throughout the books. 

My favorite character in the Hunger Games is probably Katniss. While that is probably the answer that a lot of people would give, she is a very interesting character to me. Her inability to comprehend how to thrive in her own society, and her unwillingness to change who she is to please anyone else makes her a very strong character. However, her confusion and fear about how to deal with President Snow’s threats and the political and social aspects of the game makes it a lot easier to relate to her than when she is being portrayed at Katniss the Mockingjay. Some of my favorite moments with Katniss are when she is angry about the different rules that are being imposed on her. She hates being forced to play dress up, to play nice with the judges, and more. At first, she has no real understanding of how often Peeta saved her by making her seem softer and more lovable to the people. I like that it can be hard to predict how she will complete a new challenge, but she is consistent in her hatred of the authority figures in the book and her hatred of the society that forced her, Peeta, her family, and so many others to suffer. Even so, her love for her family often kept her in line, and she was less than thrilled when District 13 tried to force her to be the face of the revolution for that reason. She is very easy to relate too, because the author does a good job of putting the reader into her head when she is faced with a difficult decision. 

I am really looking forward to this class and all that it has to offer.