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A lone voice of dissent speaks at UC Berkeley

By Jia-Rui Chong Daily Planet Staff
Tuesday March 19, 2002

Peace should not be a pie in the sky, but a goal to strive for, said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, who spoke at UC Berkeley Monday. 

In front of a cheering audience of 300, Lee delivered the first Ronald V. Dellums lecture, a lecture series created by the university to honor the Cal alum who held the 9th Congressional District seat before Lee. 

It was Dellum’s commitment to peace and justice that inspired the university to name a lecture series and a professorship in Peace and Conflict Studies after Dellum in 1999, said Chancellor Robert Berdahl.  

When discussing who should give the inaugural lecture, he and his colleagues had no difficulty choosing.  

“There was no one more suitable than Congresswoman Lee,” he said. 

Indeed, Lee, who is best known for being the only representative to vote against the Congressional resolution to give the president wide anti-terrorism powers, is proud to carry on the mission of her mentor Dellum.  

She is also a proud to support the program at her alma mater.  

“The goal of this program is to bring serious discussion of peace and conflict into the mainstream,” said Lee. 

Policy-makers, professors, citizens, journalists, and movie directors need to know that an military force is not the answer, she said. 

Although the events of Sept. 11 were horrifying, Lee said, Americans need to come away with more than just anger. 

“We need to have a stronger faith in democracy, the Constitution. We need to have a stronger faith in our fellow human beings. We need to look into the basic causes of terrorism, dedicate ourselves to peace and be more aware of the world around us.” 

But many have been critical of Lee’s idealism and dissenting vote on Sept. 14, including two protesters who held signs in front of the auditorium yesterday.  

“She refuses to stand up and help defend our country, though she was elected to serve and protect our country,” said Travis Ratliff, a first-year Cal student. 

Lee, however, defended her action and her patriotism in her lecture. 

“I believe that the lifeblood of democracy is the right to dissent. I believe that casting a no vote was the right vote,” she said. 

Lee acknowledged that pursuing peace might be hard work, but she exhorted progressives to keep fighting. 

“Peace must be a policy option. It must be on the table at all times. It should be, in reality, our only option,” she said. 

Cal students who attended the lecture said that listening to Lee made their respect for her grow. 

“A lot of communities outside Berkeley see the city and Barbara Lee as naive,” said Zach Rosenberg, a junior who majors in political science. 

But he was encouraged by her clear thinking and commitment to progressive ideals. “It proves the kind of strong, resolute conscience that Barbara Lee and Barbara Lee’s district really has,” he said. 

Berkeley resident Shauna Harris was also impressed by Lee’s passion. “I was struck by her conviction and her knowledge that there’s always a way out if you think about it.” 

While Lee’s lecture was an opportunity for the congresswoman to exhort activists to stave off cynicism, it was also an opportunity for the university to ask for donations. 

The university does not yet have enough money to create the Dellums professorship, said Katherine Cook, Development Coordinator for International and Area Studies, which oversees Peace and Conflict Studies.  

The university still needs to raise another $500,000, she said.