Tours through the College of Communication start in undergraduate affairs, go down to the basement, weave through third-floor studios and second-floor classrooms, and conclude in the first floor lobby. Offering stats and fun-facts, the tour-guides invite parents and prospective students to ask questions. These questions help the ambassadors tailor the tours to visitors’ unique interests, and at the very least they interrupt the monologues that Communication majors all too eagerly perform. In a sea of questions tossed or hurled my way on these tours, one seems to surface before the rest.
Myself, two other ambassadors, and one prospective family moved together through the college’s four floors for a late spring tour. We made our way downstairs to the first stop on our last leg: the acclaimed Pete Souza wall. The wall holds a dozen framed photographs Souza (‘76) took during his tenure as White House Photographer under President Obama.
At this point in the semester, my fellow ambassadors and myself had rehearsed our tour-guide routine a charming rapport. We would take turns talking about the photos and always point out our personal favorite from the Obama White House. I pointed to mine and said, “I love this one of him coaching basketball, I feel like I can just smell the gym he’s in.” My fellow ambassadors pointed to their favorites and offered similar explanations.
Before we could use our famous photojournalist as a segue to advertise the student-run publications on campus, a parent on our tour asked about the political climate on campus, trying to gauge whether or not students were politically active. We answered politely but honestly, hoping to inform not offend since an ambassadorship historically required diplomatic behavior beyond million dollar donations. Explaining that Boston University is an urban campus in the middle of a politically active city, we said that students embrace the opportunities for political engagement that our city and our school offer.
The question inspired me to consider the changing tides of political activism, the wave that has grown in strength and size over the past four years before it walls in 2020. Throughout my four years in college, I have watched activism evolve, manifesting in protest practices from traditional walk-outs and stand-ins, to the meme scene with “O.K., Boomer” Tik Toks. I admire the transformation of the previously apolitical, people who educated themselves and increased their own political involvement in hopes that they might empower others.
I’m so grateful to attend a university where student unions and organizations are allowed to band together and push for progress. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities and refrain from staying silent. There are causes that you should care about and they are not hopeless. Our school alone offers nine purely political organizations, but there are dozens of other groups involved with community engagement and student government. With the looming 2020 election, you can help these organizations; utilize your communication skills to educate, inform, and empower as we rush toward the shoreline.