Shouting at the President
Last Tuesday, two members of Green Action attended a fundraiser for President Obama at which they interrupted him during a speech, questioning him about his future plans for the Keystone XL pipeline.
While their actions could be considered rude, especially when they were speaking to the president, the students’ behavior was ultimately understandable, and there were extenuating circumstances that explain their behavior.
We believe that it is important to remember that the president was not in St. Louis in capacity as commander-in-chief. There is a very distinctive line between campaigning and running the country, and when the president is at a fundraiser, that is absolutely an appropriate time to interject and have your voices heard.
Secondly, the fundraiser was a paid event. Green Action requested (and received) donations in order to attend the fundraiser, and obviously had no objections to donating for the campaign of Barack Obama in order to spread their message.
With this in mind, we think that Green Action did the best it could under the circumstances. The issue of the Keystone XL pipeline is a very niche issue that Green Action believed was important enough to bring to the president’s attention, and we think that without performing the way they did, they would never have had their issues heard.
There is no way the students at Green Action could gain any sort of audience with the president, and even if they were lobbying in Washington, they would never get a meeting with a staff member.
Access to politicians is something the average citizen doesn’t have. Anyone who has worked in a congressman’s office knows the sheer volume of mail that goes unanswered for days or never reaches the member’s desk.
The only way that we as citizens can get the attention of politicians is either through lobbying or protesting. We are 18- to 22-year-olds. We can’t lobby in Washington; we can’t spend our time trying to network and gain access to have our voices heard.
Green Action did the only thing that was left available to it. The president has the ability to stop this pipeline, because it crosses international boundaries, and they wanted him to know that they were concerned about the project.
Students at Green Action did the most they could do with the little access they had, and they used their opportunity not to just criticize the president, but also to show their support and their hope and to encourage him to change his policies.
It might have come across as a little rude, but there was no other way they could have their voices heard.
Politicians on the national stage need to give more access to their citizens. We need a way to let them know that we disagree or would like them to change that doesn’t include shouting at them in a speech.
However, until we can somehow get our voices heard, shouting will be the only way that the issues we care about can get attention.