Murmurs and sounds of agreement filled the room Thursday afternoon as an enthusiastic Black Student Union listened intently to Senator Lesley Miller speak about the importance of remembering the past and changing the future.
Miller wasted no time in telling students the important role that politics plays in their everyday life.
“Voting makes a difference, so if you’re not voting then shame on you,” Miller said.
“From the time you wake up in the morning until the time you go to bed, you deal in politics,” he said.
Miller said that politics are important because they impact the policies that people have to adhere to.
“Politics affect you everyday on all levels so why would you sit back?” he asked.
Senior Otis Culiny said Miller’s speech was influential to him personally. “He made us (the students) feel like we can make a difference in the elections, present and future,” Culiny said. “Senator Miller motivated students, and you could see that because of the aura that was in the room.”
Miller spoke about the results of the 2000 presidential election and the impact on the African-American community.
“A lot of black people voted in the last election and the election was stolen because votes weren’t counted,” Miller said. “You, the black students, have changed the way we vote in the state of Florida.”
Miller’s start in politics began in 1970 when he enrolled at USF on a music scholarship. In 1975, he returned to USF, married with two children, after a four-year stint in the Air Force.
In 1975, Miller saw an opening for Student Senate Clerk and thought he wouldn’t have a chance to win because there were 18,000 students at USF at the time and only 800 of them were African-American. After being encouraged by another student, Miller won the position.
“Things started changing for me when I got the Student Government job,” Miller said. “I knew that my life had to change.”
After winning the Student Government position, Miller said that another student threatened his life and called him names. Miller said he had to be escorted around campus because his personal safety was in danger.
“As my father used to say, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, and I believe it,” Miller said.
Miller was asked to be on the now defunct Board of Regents and was the first student representative to vote on issues for the board.
One of the first projects Miller worked on was a new building proposal. Someone suggested to Miller that The Oracle poll the students on their interest in a new building and the students voted for the Sun Dome in lieu of a new music building. Miller considered the student vote and suggested the Sun Dome idea to the BOR.
Miller ended his speech by answering questions from the audience and talking about political issues.
Junior Shauna Williams said Miller’s speech was uplifting.
“It was very inspirational for him to represent USF and it shows that there is leadership at this university, ” she said.
Junior Anthony Cox said the speech made him feel important.
“He gave me the inspiration to do good things and to go out and be a leader for the school,” he said.