Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Three Wishes

Something tremendous happened this morning. I didn't know it until after my leisurely wake up, replete with stretching, half dreaming thoughts, and contemplation of the day. I finally roused myself to go to the bathroom, and upon my return found a small red string on my bed. I wondered what it could be and realized upon closer examination it was the very red string that has been tied around my wrist for precisely two years and 19 days!!!! It was a little ribbon tied on my wrist by some street gypsy guy in Salvador, Brazil The ribbon is from the church of Senor do Bomfim, a strange little church (with and even stranger side chapel totally devoted to body casts and photos of all the people who have been healed by visiting it), and the story goes that when these little ribbons are tied you make a wish for each knot and then leave it on until it falls off, at which point your three wishes come true. SO, that means my three wishes came true!!! But here's the sad part, I don't really remember what I wished for! I was so freaked out by the gypsy guy that most my wishes got used up by wishing he'd leave me alone. Nevertheless I've avoided the temptation to cut it, and then somehow in my gentle sleeping state it simply broke off. . . not during some intense outdoor activity, or Reuben (my cat) chewing on it, or any other likely activity. Though I can't recall the wishes, I can't help but feel it was cosmic on some level. . . a change in the breeze. . .a shift I have yet to perceive. . . I'm on the look out for wishes that have come true in my life.

About a week after I got it (Foz du Iguacu in the background), how it lay this morning on my bed

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Last Nadar post I promise!!!

But I had to post this one. . . pretty cool. That's me, Ralph, and Ash, my incredible roommate who was the chief organizer and heart and soul behind this project.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Alternative Commencement Revisited

This article appeared in today's Daily Herald here in Utah valley. It's an ok article, not entirely accurate, it attributes the whole discussion night to me, when it's my dear roommate Ash who started all that. Plus they once again misquote the number at the event as 'a couple hundred' when we counted 1,200! Oh well, c'est la vie. Check out our site for other press coverage of the even including an article Nadar wrote about it. PS, so glad my eyes are closed in this picture! I'm such a nerd!

BRITTANI LUSK - Daily Herald

It all started in Zina Bennion's house years ago. Every Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. a group of friends would meet for discussion nights. They would talk about anything from hip-hop dancing to the crisis in Darfur, Africa.

It was the same group of friends who met on a Sunday night in late March to discuss Brigham Young University's invitation to Vice President Dick Cheney as commencement speaker.

It was there that Ashley Sanders first mentioned the idea of an alternative commencement. The idea, one of many, played out in their minds for weeks.

Many in the community and at BYU applauded the school's decision, regarding it as an honor to host the vice president. But some, like the Wednesday group, balked at the idea because of the vice president's politics -- or simply the fact that he's a politician.

The students, instead of being content to complain in hallways or basements, wanted something bigger, something with impact. So they held their own ceremony, with invitations to former presidential candidate Ralph Nader, former Democratic senatorial candidate Pete Ashdown and activist Jack Healey.

With a lot of help from the Internet, they even raised $23,125 -- more than the $20,000 they needed to pay for the ceremony.

Hundreds of people attended the event in the McKay Events Center at Utah Valley State College.

Now that Ralph Nader has taken his $12,000 and left Utah, the students, named the "BYU 25" by Nader (though the number is not 25 nor even definite), have donated the extra $3,000 dollars they raised to charities -- and they can think about what it all meant.

"We want to give students examples of three speakers who are politically optimistic and who have solved some of the problems facing America in ingenious ways," Sanders said.

What the students learned most, they said, was the impact that a few can have on the many.

"I think it's made individuals stronger," said student organizer Samantha Dickens.

Another organizer learned that determination pays off.

"If you are persistent, you can get a movement started," said Sara Vranes.

There were rough patches on the journey toward an alternative commencement. The students had trouble finding a venue and eventually had to choose the McKay Events Center, which was outside of their price range. Then the students had to raise the money themselves.

"I knew we were going to pull it off the entire time," Vranes said.

Whatever monetary struggles they faced, they also had to deal with backlash from the community, the faculty and even friends who thought they were opposing a decision made by church leaders.

Others thought the whole movement was stupid.

"I'm not a Ralph Nader fan. I think the man is ridiculous," David Balfour, a BYU senior, told the Daily Herald in April.

The day after the alternative commencement, BYU student David Ornegri said the number of his Facebook friends had dropped.

The students also received positive feedback. Ornegri got positive text messages during the ceremony. The Facebook group for the alternative commencement is plastered with positive messages like this one: "The commencement was wonderful -- powerful and articulate. Congratulations for pulling off such a successful event."

People -- even some conservative parents -- were inspired that this group of young adults could come together and pull it off.

Vranes said her conservative father came to visit the weekend the students held their first fundraiser. He gave $50 to the cause.

"That was a miracle in and of itself," Vranes said.

Mark Vranes, who said he likes Cheney, said he supported the cause, half to support his daughter and half because he liked what Ralph Nader did for consumers during the 1970s when Nader fought for safer cars.

"[Ralph Nader] saved my life when he got the Corvair off the market," Mark Vranes said.

Many of the BYU 25 weren't even in line for graduation.

Bennion, who hosted all those discussion nights, will spend the summer working at a nonprofit ranch and plans to stay active in local politics.

Dickens still has two years left in the social work program. She plans to host an event to bring Latino and white cultures together in Provo.

Vranes is thinking about attending law school when she finishes her undergraduate work. Now, she is planning to lobby the governor and others for more money to support domestic violence and rape prevention.

The extra money the students raised has been donated to Gallery One Ten in Provo, The Eugene and Charlotte England Education Fund and to establish a chapter of Mormons for Equality and Social Justice in Utah County.

Raquel Smith Callis, who runs Gallery One Ten, and others helped the students by hosting dinners for the guests. She said all of the money will go toward operating costs.

Charlotte England allowed the students to use her bank account to collect funds. She met the students for the first time Wednesday night when she invited them all to dinner at her house. In the falling darkness, the students joked about the label BYU 25. Not one of them knows what it really means or who is or isn't included in Nader's label for the group.

Chris Foster, one of the friends, looked up and asked, "Am I in the 25?"

The group just laughed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

I love my mom. She is a total babe. When I was a kid I used to feel sorry for other kids that their mom wasn't my mom because I was pretty sure no mom could be as good as mine. I still kind of feel that way. I could wax on and on about all the things I love and admire about her, but for today I'll name my top ten (not in rank order): 1. she has always given such unconditional love to me, 2. she is one of the most generous humans I know, 3. service is a part of everything she does in the most unassuming way, 4. she is completely down to earth and steady, 5. she has a great sense of humor, 6. she is a doer- when she wants something done she researches it, figures out what to do, and does it, 7. she is a woman of deep and quiet faith, 8. she is an incredible artist, 9. she is humble and modest always, 10. she is so kind to all people and animals she meets. (bonus 11. did I mention she makes the BEST pies anywhere? Don't believe me? Just try her lemon sour cream pie and see if you don't agree!). Yeah for moms!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

We did it!!!!!

Pretty much alternative commencement was the best thing ever!!! We did it! We raised $26,000, got Pete Ashdown, Jack Healy and Ralph Nadar as speakers, and got 1,200 wonderful people out to share in the celebration! (thanks to all of you who came!).
It was such a wonderful feeling of community and positive change. I think we were really able to have it not be an angry, anti vibe, but rather a gathering about really finding alternatives and trying to be proactive about making good things happen. It was intense, and wonderful. At the last minute we realized that we wouldn't have time to feed the speakers before the event, and that no restaurants would stay open late enough for us afterwards. . . so I wound up cooking a meal for the whole group (pictured above!). So all day was baking brownie cake, cooking a host of lovely organic veggies into a minestrone stew, a coconut curry squash soup, lemon garlic salad, etc. My friend Raquel is a fantastic caterer and she provided gorgeous dinnerware and set up a beautiful spread in her gallery (gallery One Ten). I was blushing like a school girl when Nadar came up and told me how much he liked the meal. . .sigh. . . political crush from a far. So it was pretty much one of the best days of my life, and very much the best community, grassroots event I've ever encountered. Bravo to all that did so much! Hooray for alternatives!!!