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Optimism was the watchword as the spring fellows at the John F. Kennedy School of Government's Institute of Politics (IOP) introduced themselves to about 100 people last night.
Discussing a range of topics, from the "constipation" of the American political system to Chilean opposition to Pinochet, the six fellows displayed faith in the political system and a positive outlook for the future.
"Politics to me is Martin Luther King's voice, a Kennedy and a ripple of hope. It's solidarity and common people waiting in long lines to vote to oust a dictator," said Steven Cobble, executive director of the Keep Hope Alive political action committee, which supports the Rev. Jesse Jackson. "In short, if we keep the right spirit about it, it is a life that is meaningful."
Cobble, who counted delegates for Jackson at the Democratic National Convention, will lead a spring study group examining the potential for a Democratic political comeback in the 1992 elections.
Genero Arriagada Herrera, vice president of Chile's National Christian Democratic Party, sounded a lone note of political caution as he extolled the long struggle of the opposition forces that began the move to democracy in Chile.
"During those years, I learned...the politics of freedom is so, so important," said the Chilean opposition leader. "Sometimes people feel that democracy is something that will always be there. It is really a thing that will not survive unless some people have concern."
Following Herrera's words, Jessie White, Jr., the executive director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, related his experience in the "trenches of campaign politics." Drawing on his successful management of a Mississippi gubernatorial campaign, White alluded to the movie Star Wars in describing his political experiences.
"I have felt both the dark power and the good power in politics," said White. "I want to help the Luke Skywalkers triumph in politics."
And White expressed his views of the American political system during the past decade:
"The federal government is totally constipated, [and] does little more than increase the debt and invade foreign countries. And you know how to cure constipation," quipped the Southern politician.
`A Sense of Purpose'
Former Kenyan parliament member Rose Waruhiu highlighted a stagnant educational system in her home country. Because of poor education programs, she said, very few Kenyan people would even be able to deliberate an opinion on such matters as America's role in foreign affairs.
Joan Richman, vice president of news coverage for CBS News, also spoke briefly to the audience. The former executive producer of CBS News reflected on the activism of the '60s. And state Rep. Pauline Kezer (R--CT) expressed hope that the spirit of volunteerism would continue through the '90s.
"There is a new feeling for the next decade, a sense of purpose," Kezer said.
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