I’ve been going to JMU for three years now. And every year that I’ve been here JMU has brought a public figure for a talk. My freshman year Desmond Tutu came to accept the Mahatma Gandhi Nonviolence Award. Tutu is a South African activist who campaigns for the oppressed. He also campaigns for human rights, AIDS, poverty, and racism. My sophomore President Barack Obama came. As we all know, Obama won the election just a few weeks after speaking in lil’ ole Harrisonburg. This year, former President Jimmy Carter is coming to accept his Mahatma Gandhi Nonviolence Award. Carter has committed to improving human conditions in the world, and has been very active in the Middle East.
So freshman year, Tutu came on a Friday. Being the naive freshman that I was, I thought that I could arrive at the Convo center about twenty minutes before the show started. I don’t think tickets were being sold for this event, so it was a first-come, first-serve deal. My friends and I showed up, only to have the doors shut in our faces. To be honest, I didn’t care at the time, because I had not heard of Tutu until then.
Obama! My friends and I arrived on that turf field around 11:00 that morning. It was chilly, and windy, and the sun kept going behind the clouds. We sat right on the ground and staked our spot, passing the time by playing games, doing homework, and taking pictures of ourselves. We shared our life stories in the hours we waited to get into the Convo Center. The lien started moving, and my excitement sky rocketed. We slowly made our way around the turf field, weaving in and out of the cones. Sadly, the people who were organized the event didn’t consider the fact that a million and one people were going to show up to squeeze into the 7,000 seats in Convo. As my friends and I slowly stepped off the turf and onto the sidewalk, a rush of people came from the side and cut in line. My friends and I were on the steps when the doors were closed and locked. I was pissed, because no security was there to stop people from cutting. But I did get to hear him on the soccer field for the thirty seconds he was out there.
This year, tickets were being sold for Jimmy Carter. So some of us bought tickets to ensure we’d get seats to hear the former president speak. Now I don’t really know much about Jimmy Carter as a president, but I have heard in the last month some of his humanitarian work. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t like his administration and his policies, or if you liked his comment about Congressman Joe Wilson, the work Carter has done for the world is incredible. The man is trying to achieve world peace, which we have been striving for since the beginning of time. He has gone overseas to negotiate peace treaties and to settle conflicts using nonviolence methods. He and his wife Rosalynn actively volunteer, bettering the world for future generations.
So, if you have not already bought your ticket yet, it’s not too late, since the Gandhi center has about 50 left to sell. Even if you are on the other side of the political spectrum, or you think Jimmy Carter’s statement to Joe Wilson was out-of-line, you should buy a ticket and go to the event tonight, at 7 pm, at the Convo center. You can buy your tickets online at http://www.jmu.edu/gandhicenter. This is an historical, once-in-a-lifetime moment. How many times can you look back on your life and say you were there when a president was awarded a Nonviolence Award?