Peterson: Reflect before you act


Protestors gather west of the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines to join in Occupy Iowa’s first rally on Sunday, Oct. 9. The rally, modeled after the Occupy Wall Street movement, attracted people of all ages and political ideologies. 

Ryan Peterson

I’m asking you to use the weekend

for self-reflection and consideration. A lot has happened these

past weeks and months: Iowa State has a new President, cuts in

funding and increases in tuition are at record highs, class sizes

are larger than ever, and students have unprecedented debt. All the

while the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements loom in the

background. Things have happened quickly, key things that impact

all of us, and as fast as they’re moving, they’re only gaining


In most cases it’s popular to be

involved, to walk out, protest, or get arrested for your beliefs.

But in most cases that’s all it is, popular. As students we

shouldn’t consider what is popular but what is necessary,

especially at Iowa State, where we can make the most difference.

But sadly, we share few thoughts; those we do are rarely considered

in depth. Thoughts and actions that form our futures and change our

university are never given more than a passing thought.

Take, for example, the student walk

out today at noon. In many ways I imagine a scene from the movie

“The Trotsky.” Students walk out to protest the school, but

immediately begin texting, playing Frisbee, and socializing. No

real statement will be made and no real power will be generated.

There is little to no effect in skipping class. Don’t walk out for

the sake of walking out, and don’t walk out because your friends

are going to. The walkout as an excuse to skip class isn’t a

legitimate reason, either.

Unlike “The Trotsky”, our walkout

isn’t even protesting the school. I don’t believe our indignation

is with the university, I believe something else has incited the

students and the society at large. This is something people can’t

seem to identify and have no resolutions for. What we have instead

is something we saw around us and joined in, or something we held

privately but never quite understood.

What we have is intense levels of

social activity that can be fun to participate in. However, it’s

critical not to lose yourself in the torrent of energy. No matter

what your position is, whether you plan to walkout or not, I’m

asking you to consider, “What are the issues that impact me and

Iowa State?”

Take the weekend and use it for

revitalization before you act. Students are busy; between class,

homework, extracurricular activities and socializing, we’re left

little time to reflect on any one subject in depth. We’re

constantly among a crowd of voices, in front of a television or

tuned into a radio. We’re trained to do things quickly: teachers

force us to read quickly, time tells us to move quickly and society

demands quick decisions. Especially on the weekend when we binge on

leisure and fun. The prospect of solitude and thought is less than


But it’s only one weekend, for a

single block of time, for an issue important to us all. I’m not

asking you to sacrifice your whole weekend, but invest a portion of

it. Pray, meditate, walk or simply sit quietly for a few long

periods of silence. And concentrate. Shut your phone off and find a

place where you can think uninterrupted.

Taking time to consolidate your mind

is critical before you begin interacting with others. After a few

long periods of consideration, try to write. Writing helps define

your thoughts and clarify your points. Write about the biggest

issues that affect you, explain why and elaborate. How do they

effect Iowa State? Write a few solutions, what students should do,

and defend your arguments against others.

At the end of a long weekend, I’d

like you to write a letter to the paper. You’ve cleared your head,

you’ve thought through a few problems, and you have a few possible

solutions. Share them. If it’s action you seek, then let’s see you

act. Unlike walking out, consider it personally and begin a

discussion. If government is the problem, write about it. If we

need a more democratic system, write about it. If you’re worried

about the military-industrial complex, let’s hear it. There is no

power as great as a thousand individual with independent


Privately take a weekend in solitude

and reflection, spend a day preparing your point, and then let’s

all take a week to see what comes of it. Write letters, and some

will get printed, others posted online. Read them, comment on them,

and let’s act. Independently we have a voice, collectively we can

use our voices to make one hell of a change relevant to our issues

and our community.