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The consumer advocate is running for for president on the Green Party ticket. A subtle irony hung in the air of Room 1206 in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall yesterday afternoon, when Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader addressed about 200 Penn students and faculty and other interested area residents on his campaign and his cause. But the liberal press conference and rally's location -- a pristine classroom in Wharton, a school whose Economics classes espouse principles of free-market capitalism -- was not intended to produce any ironic effect, College freshman Lincoln Ellis said. "It was the only room available," said Ellis, a member of Penn Students Against Sweatshops, which sponsored the event. Nader is running for the presidency on the ticket of the Green Party -- the 16-year-old left-leaning party that focuses on grass-roots democracy, social justice, non-violence and ecology. Quoting Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, Nader, 66, told his audience that history teaches two important societal lessons: "Democracy works," he said. "But the concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a few doesn't work." He called specific attention to current economic conditions, noting, "There's a huge disconnect between most people and the booming economy." Citing statistics that showed that the average American has become progressively less wealthy and more indebted since the 1950s, Nader chided the media for not addressing the financial difficulties that many citizens face. "Millions of Americans after years of work are essentially broke," Nader said. He then elaborated on pollution, declining public works, corporate under-regulation and military overspending, which he said were "the results of an oligarchy" of corporate interests and "tweedledum, tweedledee, look-alike political parties." It is the inability of most Americans to influence change, Nader said, that causes "civic demoralization," which he described as the belief of many citizens that their voice will not be heard. Nader drew applause when he decried inaction on the part of the United States and its citizens in regard to the exploitation of children as laborers in other parts of the world. He went on to cite PSAS as an example of a student organization whose dedication during its recent sit-in in University President Judith Rodin's office evoked comparisons to student activists in the 1960s. Nader was introduced by Philadelphia City Councilman David Cohen. Of Nader, Cohen said, "I know of nobody in the U.S. who's fought more consistently over time on behalf of consumers?. It's wonderful Ralph Nader is going political." To this, Cohen added, "It is my hope that the Democratic Party can someday adopt all the principles which the Green Party espouses." Nader's speech was followed by an open question-and-answer period. One audience member commented on the lack of a Green Party membership base in this part of the country. Nader pointed out that the party is relatively new, having been founded in the United States in 1984, and that all important political movements start small. He said that it had the potential to become "a populist-progressive movement? of thought, not blind belief." History graduate student Chris Klemek looked to Nader as a potent alternative to the Democratic Party. "I'm attempting to look elsewhere for progressive politics," he said. "It's inspiring," local political activist Val Sowell added, "to see someone so fueled by their beliefs."

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