Fighting for democracy: "Activists, organizers, professionals, elected representatives, and students"
The Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) hosted four leaders advocating for a more just and inclusive democracy on Tuesday, October 4th. State Representative Malcolm Kenyatta joined a panel that included Armin Samii, a volunteer with March on Harrisburg, as well as RepresentWomen Founder and Executive Director Cynthia Richie Terrell (Swarthmore ‘86) and FairVote Co-founder and Executive Director Rob Richie ‘86.
Two organizations advancing national and even international efforts for democracy, coupled with state-level advocacy for transparent, democratic processes provided a great deal of breadth. But the guests, facilitated by Professor of Political Science Zachary Oberfeld, emphasized connections, opportunities for action, and the long effort to establish and advance democratic commitments.
Isabel Ashford Arya ‘24 noticed the strengths such a diverse panel brings for students considering how best to advance social change and democratic commitments. Ashford Arya reflected,
I had the opportunity to attend the One Person, One Vote panel on Tuesday, and as a CPGC Philadelphia Justice and Equity Fellow, I was also invited to a casual conversation with the panelists over lunch. I found these events especially meaningful and empowering because they brought together people from diverse backgrounds and various sides of the conversation. Different actors utilizing a range of both insider and outsider strategies – such as activists, organizers, professionals, elected representatives, and even students – were able to engage in dialogue and exchange ideas about the importance of ranked choice voting, banning legal bribery in Pennsylvania, and getting women on the ballot and elected across the country. I gained a new understanding of and commitment to the possibilities and urgency of collaboration, which is the only way to make our local and national institutions more equitable and truly representative of everyday voters who are increasingly disillusioned by American democracy and the power of their singular vote.
Like many Haverford students, Ashford Arya is maximizing the opportunities available for an engaged, applied liberal arts education. In addition to being selected for fellowships with the CPGC, she has taken part in the Tri-Co Philly Program, which offers students in-depth opportunities to engage with leaders who are changing the world in ways big and small. In the Tri-Co Philly Program students take experiential, Philadelphia-focused classes that ground academic work in the lived experiences of people in the city. Tri-Co Philly Program Director Calista Cleary attended Tuesday’s event as well. Cleary shared,
For me, the panel was a reminder that democracy in our country is not guaranteed. Democracy is a process working towards an ideal that we all have to be engaged with in this country. The panel was a refreshing reminder amidst dismal headlines about the crisis facing democracy, that there have been many reforms that are making progress and gaining ground at the state and federal level, with ranked choice voting as one example. The reform of democracy towards greater access and equity requires so many people doing varying work in different arenas -- politicians, activists, academics and everyday people. To hear from some people doing this work and recommit to my own contributions was really energizing!
One of the themes during panel conversation was the extent to which ranked choice voting has gained acceptance across numerous jurisdictions. Panelist Rob Richie ‘86, has published on that topic in a great breadth of magazines and newspapers, most recently with a Monday headline in the Las Vegas Sun, Time has come for nation to embrace ranked choice voting. As the op-ed makes clear, ranked choice voting is popular across political parties, efficient, and fiscally responsible.
The Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Citizenship is fortunate to steward funds intended to support students in internships that advance democracy protection and promotion. Haverford students have interned with a range of organizations supporting democracy, including Laura Mercedes ‘24 internship this past summer with Common Cause, through which she documented linkages between Sheriff elections and mass incarceration. Indeed, many Fords are involved in democracy protection and promotion. CPGC staff members are eager to connect with rising students interested in such opportunities. After Fall Break, contact Janice Lion, Associate Director for Philadelphia and National Fellowships.