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Sandra Fluke Is Really Smart, Speaks As Part Of SPA’s Distinguished Speaker Series

Sandra Fluke is a smart, funny, down-to-earth woman, and a great public speaker. She knows her audience, knows her facts, and knows what she doesn’t know.

“I’m not Barack Obama,” Fluke said in the opening of her speech Wednesday night  in the HUB’s Alumni Hall as part of the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

Obviously SPA didn’t surprise everyone and parade the president out to an engaged room, but Fluke meant this in the sense that she was not going to talk about all different kinds of rights, though she dabbles in many of them. But Fluke knows Obama (well), and spoke highly of his abilities to come into a room of people and discuss all of the different rights — gender, sex, age, political, voting, etc. — and sufficiently cover everything in an invigorating and engaging way. She knows that she wouldn’t be able to do this.

Instead, Fluke focused her talk on the structural impediments to achieving all of the rights and the accompanying visions of peace and happiness, which she broke into three overarching ideas.

Fluke opened the meat of her talk by getting into how campaigns are funded by big donors, but campaigners would be better off going for the working-class families and their small-amount donations and then having this number matched by public funds. By focusing on matching funds, politicians could make voters feel like contributing to the campaign is “making a damn difference.” In turn, campaigners would be less dependent on a few, large donors and their goodwill or support.

Fluke continued that voters are another problem when it comes to getting the officials that we want in office, well, in office. Transparency in a campaign isn’t going to do much good unless voters are motivated to get out and vote, in an informed manner at that. Fluke questioned, then, why the system makes it so hard for voters to vote if that’s what the system needs is people to vote.

“Why are we saying, ‘if you want to vote, you’re going to have to work for it’?”

Instead of forcing voters who wish to have a say in their elected officials to register, Fluke argued that we should make people who don’t want to vote register, and that making it harder is only further deterring rights.

I found the third topic of Fluke’s talk particularly interesting (and embarrassing). The activist discussed how the fourth branch of the government is considered the media because, without it, there’s no way for the public to know what’s going on in campaigns or the government.

“How would we know not to vote for Donald Trump if we didn’t know every idiotic thing he was tweeting?”

Fluke touched on how rating-driven media is impacting the public by not providing them with fair, unbiased information. She said that the media that works best is that which holds people accountable instead of generalized reporters covering and analyzing the “he said, he said” of the government. In turn, media outlets are consolidating, and one large agency just covers all of the news instead of having fewer, smaller agencies report on local news. This becomes an issue because, all of the legislation is happening at the local level, and nobody is covering it because the media is so caught up in the flashy, big-government workings. According to Fluke, If we want more rights, it starts at the local government level.

Being from California, Fluke took a moment before her question and answer session to offer a moment of silence for the victims of the San Bernardino.

“I grew up in Central Pennsylvania in a pretty conservative area and a pretty conservative family, and I felt like there were a lot of things that I saw happening in my community that didn’t seem to be fair or right, but I didn’t really have a framework to explain why,” Fluke said of her involvement in rights and advocacy. “College offered me that political framework, political in the lowercase ‘p,’ to understand those kinds of issues of discrimination and oppression and those kinds of challenges.”

Fluke said that for anyone looking to get involved in activism and advocacy, the key is small steps, and focusing on what’s important to you. Sure, we might want to all solve the refugee crisis, but that’s not the best place to get started. To Fluke, part of her drive comes from knowing that something can and should be done, and she’s the one who can do it.

“What I did draw from my family was a firm, absolute commitment to public service, to community service, and to fighting for what you believe in, no matter what. For me, it was a sense of I understand these things are wrong, I understand what should be done about them, so I am obligated to fight for them because that’s what you do.”

About the Author

Lexi Shimkonis

Lexi is an editor-turned-staff writer who can often be found at either Irving's or the Phyrst (with the chances she'll have her backpack being the same). Lexi is a senior hailing from Spring City, PA (kind of) and studying Civil Engineering. Please email questions and/or pleas for an Instagram caption to [email protected], or for a more intimate bond, follow her on Twitter @lexshimko.

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