Arianna Huffington, the keynote speaker of the 19th annual Rainbow Festival, captured her audience’s attention by addressing problems within the American government.
Huffington, an ex-candidate for California governor and well-known author and political columnist, spoke on behalf of the Cross Cultural Center’s effort to encourage students to ‘Think Globally, Act Locally,’ which was the theme of this year’s Rainbow Festival.
Over 200 people filled the seats of Crystal Cove Auditorium to listen to Huffington, a Republican-turned-Independent, speak on a variety of issues and comment on political greed and its undermining of America.
Huffington used the war in Iraq as an example to illustrate how the government created justifications for intervention after their initial motive for entering Iraq was proven false.
‘Those opposed [to the war] from the beginning were proven right,’ Huffington said. ‘We have a leadership based on illusion … we thought we’d go there and everything would be okay.’
Huffington also commented on the recent election of Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger, who ‘brought the Hummer to America.’
‘People believed him because they saw him do it in the movies,’ Huffington said. ‘They saw the Terminator as also being a Collectinator.’
Arianna explained that although she is ineligible to run in the upcoming presidential election, she ‘provided some words of relief’ for some Americans.
‘I can’t run for president because I wasn’t born here, but good news, neither can Arnold!’ Huffington said.
As far as balancing the budget, Huffington believes that the sacrifice should ultimately start at the ‘top.’
‘Everybody in Bush’s administration should give up their tax breaks,’ Huffington said. ‘Those tax breaks should not occur at the top.’
Huffington discussed three key ways in which America is being undermined by political corruption and her interpretation of how ‘democracy’ is defined in America.
‘As a Greek, we gave the U.S. democracy and you screwed it up!’ Huffington said.
The first key issue addressed the existence of pollsters and their under-representation of America’s eligible voters.
Huffington exprssed her contempt for the American people for having ‘nothing better to do than talk to pollsters’ as well as encouraged the partnership for a poll-free America.
The second key issue was the negligence of pollsters to account for more than half of all possible voters.
According to Huffington, young people and minorities are at the top of the list ofthose whose votes are the most crucial in shaping America’s policies.
On the last issue, Huffington blamed the media for covering issues that had little to no relevance to us or issues that we can’t actively make a difference in.
‘Whenever I see the Scott Petersen trial on television I change it to the golf channel,’ Huffington said. ‘We shouldn’t watch things we don’t have any influence over. Instead, take interest in things you can make a difference in.’
Huffington also showed how rhetoric plays an important role in the election of our nation’s leaders.
‘We’re at a dangerous moment where anyone who is charming can take control,’ Huffington said.
As a result, Huffington stressed the dangers of public policy being controlled by the powerful.
With approximately 120,000 reports of violence and abuse each year, Huffington questioned the priorities of the American government.
‘When we didn’t find anything [in Iraq] we justified it by humanitarianism,’ Huffington said. ‘What about the people tortured here?’
According to Huffington, the need for emphasis on ‘right-wrong’ issues instead of ‘right-left’ issues will bridge the gap between a politically corrupt America and pertinent issues facing the country today.
Huffington believes students can be an instrumental part of this ‘right-wrong’ transition by encouraging organizations such as CALPIRG to establish leaders to fight for a clean America.
Huffington also gave some words of advice to anyone interested in getting involved with activism.
‘Choose a passion and then build bonds with other activists,’ Huffington said.
Some students agreed with Huffington’s viewpoints expressed in her speech and her continued committment and efforts towards activism.
‘I think we should make an effort to speak out against issues we are unhappy with,’ said Thi Nguyen, a third-year ICS major. ‘She mentioned boycotting the media … I think that’s one place we can start.’
However, other audience members felt that Huffington’s strong political voice was not relevant to the theme of the Rainbow Festival.
‘She should have talked about issues facing students today and relating it to the [Rainbow] Festival’s theme,’ said George Vartanian, second-year psychology major. ‘Instead she spent the entire time bashing the Republican party and the Bush adminstration.’
Danish Shahbah, a first-year criminology major felt that through her efforts to push political awareness to the audience, Huffington’s entire speech was selfish and derogatory.
‘She shouldn’t have bashed on Arnold like that,’ Shahbah said. ‘Half [of her speech] was about herself and the other half was criticizing what other people were doing.