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From Michelle Weinberg, "For Every Action," Fall '99 From Michelle Weinberg, "For Every Action," Fall '99This Saturday, I attended my first protest. I'd always thought about attending a protest, but I've never really had the courage. Thoughts of radical protesters getting arrested and screaming at people in the streets ran through my mind. At the protest, we dressed in orange aprons, trying to look like Home Depot employees. We handed out "coupons" to people entering the store with our message printed on both sides. We dropped a banner off the roof of the building -- a slightly illegal act, but nobody got caught. And we chanted "mahogany and cedar, rain forests die by meter" and "Home Depot sucks, don't waste your bucks." It was an amazing feeling to know that my voice was being heard -- the megaphone I was shouting into certainly helped in that effort -- and that we were making an impact. Walking through the parking lot and talking to people was also a thrilling feeling -- people were really receptive to hearing about our cause and listening as we answered their questions. Student protest has always been a means for social awareness and change. This past weekend, 27 students at Georgetown University occupied the office of the university president in protest of Georgetown's role in the sweatshop industry. Last week, 100 students at Notre Dame went on a hunger strike, demonstrating to have homosexuality protected by Notre Dame's anti-discrimination policy. The long-term impacts of these protests have yet to be seen, but they have gained attention and support for their causes across the country. Protesters are often quickly dismissed as crazy radicals. But don't automatically discount demonstrators because you are uncomfortable with the idea of speaking out for change. Students around the world are willing to risk their lives in the name of a cause in which they believe. In Nigeria, youth protesters were killed by soldiers as they demonstrated against oil companies destroying their land. And none of us can think about student protest without recalling the tragic slaughter of Chinese dissidents in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Unlike these foreign protesters, we live in a society where free speech and free expression are taken for granted. It is our right to speak out for or against any issue that upsets us. Yet most of us never do speak out and look strangely upon those who are willing to try. The majority of Penn's student body seems to be apathetic to anything that occurs beyond the imaginary walls of the University of Pennsylvania. Most Penn students don't care about anything that does not have a direct and immediate impact upon their own lives. We cannot spend our lives hiding inside the ivory tower. Phrases like human rights and social justice are thrown around in intellectual discussion, yet very few of us seem willing to take a stand. People seem afraid to make up their minds. Claiming that "I don't know enough about the issue to take a stance" or "This issue doesn't really affect me" is simply taking the easy way out. Get educated about issues, take a stand and speak out. Remaining silent about an issue is the same as condoning it. I have always believed in speaking out against injustice, and have written letters, petitioned, organized speakers and generally talked up issues that I felt were socially important. Yet even I, a self-proclaimed activist, was wary of demonstrations and protests, wondering if the visual impact actually served as an effective means for awareness and education

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