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Kennedy Calls Upon USF Students to Reclaim the Environment and Democracy

Environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. presented students and staff with facts and solutions to many of Earth’s ecological problems Thursday night as part of the University Lecture Series.

During his speech, John F. Kennedy’s nephew offered his audience in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom with energy alternatives to oil drilling that would both improve the environment while allowing the economy to develop.

“We need federal rules that say you can sell electricity if you produce it and get market rates for it,” Kennedy said. “It would turn every American into an electricity entrepreneur.”

In addition to selling electricity, Kennedy also stressed the environmental friendliness and economic benefits of electric cars. Kennedy explained that electric cars are cheaper to run, costing only 6 cents a mile compared to the 40 cents the average American pays today.

“The only impediment is really leadership,” Kennedy said. “This is not 10 years away. If we had presidential leadership, this could be four years away.”

As Kennedy discussed the most severe issues facing our environment, he also dedicated much of his time expressing his frustrations with the current Bush Administration. They have been unable to preserve and protect the environment during the past seven years, he said.

“This administration has been more hostile to the environment than any administration in history,” Kennedy said. “Polluters or lobbyists for polluters are running the agencies that are supposed to be protecting our environment.”

Kennedy emphasized throughout his speech that protecting the environment is “an investment in infrastructure,” and said we can have a good environmental policy and a good economic policy simultaneously. He also expressed his concern and discontent for the control and power that large corporations have acquired and maintained in our government, especially in the media and its failure to report newsworthy stories to inform the public.

The audience was especially responsive when Kennedy encouraged them to view a clean environment and democracy as being intertwined.

“You have an absolute right to fresh air, clean air, and clean water,” he said. “It is not just the destruction of our environment, is it the destruction of our democracy.”

His overall message of fighting to gain back a democracy in which the interests of the people are at heart that moved students at USF.

“Finally someone who spoke the truth,” said Amanda Mayer, a senior majoring in biology. “His speech was refreshing. It was nice that he wasn’t choosing sides — he was just talking about the issues.”