Former U.S. Democratic senator Mike Gravel spoke to students last Thursday at Wellman Hall at an event hosted by the Davis Democratic Socialists.
Best known for his attempts to filibuster the Vietnam war draft and his release of the Pentagon Papers, he covered subjects ranging from the war on drugs to the war on terrorism, in addition to a recount of his experiences as a senator. Gravel also promoted his current movement advocating direct democracy in America.
The talk itself was a collaboration between Brett Lemke, a fifth-year evolutionary anthropology major, and the Davis Democratic Socialists club.
“I wanted the campus to hear his viewpoint,” Lemke said, “There are very few people who have had the courage and integrity to stand up like him.”
Lemke worked with Gravel on his 2008 campaign for president and came to know him personally.
Gravel also has a hand in The National Citizen’s Initiative for Democracy, a constitutional amendment providing for the institution of a legislature of the people, in which all citizens can propose initiatives and vote. Some students were fond of the idea.
“More democracy is appealing,” said Phillip Fujiyoshi, a UC Davis plant pathology lab technician.
Other students had their reservations.
“It would be revolutionary if it gets passed, but I have my doubts,” said Brian McGinnis, a first-year philosophy major.
Though not officially associated with or endorsed by Gravel, direct democracy is something that the Davis Democratic Socialists value, club president David Roddy said.
Grown out of the Occupy movement of last year, the club espouses a devotion to a democratic society, a revived labor movement and opposition to oppression, racism and sexism.
Apart from direct democracy, Gravel voiced his compassion for those pepper sprayed and encouraged those working to do something about it, harkening back to his days fighting against the draft.
In closing his speech, former senator Gravel professed that the people must acquire power to affect the problems that affect people the most, as he said the world only changes with power.
Gravel’s initiative ballot in its entirety can be viewed online at ncid.us.
CHANDLER HILL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.