By Elisabeth Turner, Columnist
No matter what changes - or not -- that Occupy Wall Street brings about, the movement will be remembered by both Democrats and Republicans. From signs demonstrating discontent for the repeal of the Glass–Stegall Act in 1999 to demands for redistributing the top one percent's wealth, it is obvious that something is shaking the structure of American government.
Hofstra students are definitely making their voices heard as well. Last week, Hofstra hosted its ninth Day of Dialogue. One of the sessions I attended discussed the current movement at Wall Street and the ensuing protests that have been birthed because of it. A panel with Republican and Democrat students took the stage, and the founder of the online publication Occupy Wall Street Journal was present via Skype. Each speaker presented viewpoints concerning the movement, unleashing a subsequent wave of tension throughout the room.
After the panelists had finished their personal commentary on the situation, members of the audience stepped up to the microphone to pose questions and rebuttals.
The hourlong session was filled with enough heat to keep me warm for the rest of November. While Democrats complained about the corruption of corporations, Republicans posed seemingly unfeasible alternatives. I sat in a chair in the middle of the theater, my eyes shifting back and forth between speaker and listener. With each rebuttal, I subconsciously scooted forward towards the edge of my seat. I felt my pulse quicken and my toes grip the insides of my shoes. I found the controversy permeating the atmosphere to be riveting and enthralling, but even more inspiring. Sitting there with my elbows stationed on the armrests, I remained unbiased in my assessment of the speakers and the rebuttals. As I attempted to find the logic behind the mess of the way things are and the way they should be, I realized the circular quality of the matter.
After listening a bit more to the uproars of angry sentiment, I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed back into my seat, remembering what I already knew. As Americans, we are stubborn. Like the cloud and its silver lining, we are overly caught up in the bad, making it hard to see the good. Yes, a systematic change is necessary. And no doubt, a protest, a voice, or a stance against corruption grabs the attention of Washington.
But wouldn't we like to see a lasting and enduring reformation?
Maybe we could do something besides merely disclaiming the standards and morals of those with whom we disagree. Instead of bashing the millionaires for their lifestyles of luxury and clobbering some of the liberal-minded thinkers for their approval of socialism, we could extract the viable solutions and ideas from both sides of our diverse thought spectrums, merging them into something new; something unified.
Two weeks ago, I went to visit Wall Street myself. At first glance, the numerous signs all displayed messages pointing out issues of our flawed government. But as I moved on through the crowd, I came across a sign with three simple words: "Follow your heart." Despite the ambiguity of the phrase, it hits the core of every individual and every American.
While a clash of values is perpetually inevitable, the choice to listen to one's instincts rather than always listening to one's head is something everyone can relate to. If Americans could find some aspect of our humanity over which to unite, transformation could happen sooner.
As Hofstra students, we are privileged with a myriad of resources and opportunities through which we can make a difference. Let's use them to bring about cohesion of character, and a much-needed unity of heart. We may not be the world, but we are a part of it.