- John Kasich
The John Kasich event was one which I was surprisingly interested in attending as I was curious to understand the perspective of someone who I viewed as a more “traditional” Republican in today’s political climate. Much of this speech was controversial on campus due to the large cost associated with Kasich’s presence. I found his speech to be quite engaging and effective, it is clear he is an established politician with excellent speaking mannerisms, however I felt he lacked originality in his presentation, and it was no different to an autobiography I could have read off a shelf. Most of the talk was centered around the idea that us as students at a private liberal arts college could achieve whatever we wanted and that the world was ours to explore. This led into the idea that politicians aren’t the people who make decisions, it’s the people. This idea was interesting as in many circumstances this is true, however in today’s political climate I associate politicians
2. Carol Quillen
Campus Events Humanities Fall Semester
Professor Quillen “Being Human”
Professor Quillen’s speech on “what it means to be human” was quite intriguing to me especially as it closely aligned with our first topic of study surrounding the area of what defines us as humans and makes our humanity unique to us? This was further investigated by making references to great philosophers of our time such as John Locke and Karl Marx and their views of what it means to be free and equal. Furthermore, the idea of how we define liberal thought was discussed and even open to the audience for interpretation. Before attending this talk and the humanities program as a whole, I would have considered the word “liberalism” relatively easy to define, something to do with free open-mindedness and unobstructed thought. Liberal thinking, I found was more than this it involving thinking, interpreting and understanding others through both stories and actions and using this information to understand humanity in a more complex and thorough manner.
3. Raymond Santana
The Raymond Santana talk was one which shocked me in many ways, mainly through hearing his story and the immense wrongdoing of the criminal justice system in destroying his life as part of the exonerated five. Despite this Santana was not deterred in making a positive impact on the world, something I feel especially in today’s society is becoming less and less achievable. The part which struck me the most was just hearing the whole trauma and ordeal it is for any person, let alone an innocent one, to face ridicule and public backlash, especially for ones differences whether that be race or social status etc. The positive message and energy I mentioned before was really brought through by the end of the speech where he took the path of showing the importance of life. Especially for Santana, freedom is a gift, not just a given right, and he treasures this more than anything. We all need to change, blaming others for the faults of today’s society will do nothing but worsen the problem.
4. Speech at EGI in Montgomery, AL
The speech at the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) in Montgomery, AL really captivated me especially as I am interested in law and the civil rights period of American history. This stuck out to me as one of the most memorable parts of our wonderful trip in January. EJI was founded in Montgomery to ensure people on death row could receive proper legal representation especially in an unjust racially bias system. At the time of founding 1/4 of all prisoners in death row in America where in the state of Alabama. For a state with a population of 4.8 million in a country of 330 million this is a shocking statistic and clearly shows an underlying issue. At this time there was also no appointing of legal defense attorneys, meaning defendants had zero representation unless they could afford the extreme expense of private legal representation. Additionally, when these attorneys were appointed they had a cap of $1000 payment from the state for representing defendants, leaving almost no incentive for them to fully participate in the case. Add this to often white-based jury bias in Alabama’s court system, and African-Americans facing the death penalty had no chance.
In addition to this, Alabama state law used to allow a sentencing judge to override a jury’s punishment and resulted in capital punishment being handed down more commonly compared to other states. Most people on death-row in the state were as a result of jury override. EGI assisted pursuing this to the Supreme Court in 2017 where it was deemed unconstitutional.
Once of the largest setbacks for EGI was in 1999 when Congress removed all funding for the group leaving them facing collapse. At this time they had become a not-for-profit legal service for the marginalized. The sought to challenge the way race was talked about in America. Despite this due to generous private donors they lived on to serve and make the community more equal.
In 2005, the Supreme Court again ruled in EGI’s favor that the execution of incarcerated children was unconstitutional. The federal government gave Alabama some time for re-trial and rectifying this issue before another lawsuit would be filed against the state.
Many of EGI’s workers are former clients who were helped by the service. They also assist in helping new clients integrate back into society, through finding employment, building credit and creating social circles. Additionally many people have be taught to use modern technology such as computers, smartphones and even ATMs, all of which may not have existed when they were imprisoned.
It is clear that race and class are determinate outcomes in the criminal system in the United States. These statistics can also be linked to lynchings in America. 90% of African Americans in the Deep South experienced lynchings prior to 1960 and the Federal Government largely ignored any concerns. Those who escape to other parts of America were essentially refugees within their own nation! This can also be seen in relation to incarceration. The states which had the highest rates of lynchings are now those with the highest African-American incarceration rates. These would be: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina.