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Marianne Williamson will speak at an event at Penn next Tuesday, April 19 (Photo Gage Skidmore | CC BY-SA 2.0).

Author and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson spoke with The Daily Pennsylvanian about the current state of domestic politics and her upcoming town hall event on campus next week.

Williamson will discuss how spirituality and love should play a larger role in politics moving forward at a town hall event next Tuesday, April 19 at 6 p.m. in Houston Hall’s Bodek Lounge. The event is co-sponsored by The Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy and Penn Justice Dems.

In addition to publishing more than a dozen books, including four New York Times bestsellers, Williamson is a political activist and nonprofit founder and organizer. Her work centers around finding innovative ways to incorporate spirituality into everyday practices and promoting compassion in politics. 

“What is wrong with our country today is that too many of our political and economic structures are lacking in integrity, lacking in ethics, lacking in compassion, and lacking in mercy,” Williamson told the DP. 

In order to prioritize this compassion in people’s day-to-day lives, Williamson said that individuals must practice mindfulness and avoid “downloading the chaos of the world” by using their phones or reading the news as soon as they wake up.

“If you spend even a short period of time in reflection, prayer, meditation, mindfulness, or yoga, then your nervous system has a chance,” Williamson said. “You align your nervous system with something bigger than the insanity that is so rampant in our world today.”

Williamson said that she is always excited to speak with students because they have fresh perspectives and are more willing to proactively evaluate traditions — to change the status quo if it is not the best course of action.

Citing the resurgence of labor movements across the country, Williamson emphasized that problems Americans face today share some similarities to problems the country has faced, and overcome, before. To better understand this, Williamson encourages students to “read about the times in our history when people faced challenges as difficult as ours and were able to prevail." 

“We had slavery, but we also had abolition. We had the institutional oppression of women, but we also had the women's suffragette movement. We had segregation, but we also have the Civil Rights Movement," Williamson said. 

Penn Justice Dems communications chair and College sophomore Macy Stacher said that many religious or spiritual students, like himself, use their religious beliefs as the basis of their progressivism. Stacher said that the club wanted to bring Williamson because she "speaks to a kind of transformative politics that this unprecedented time really calls for."

The club's outreach chair and College senior Tara Yazdan Panah echoed Stacher's sentiments, adding that she believes Williamson is also an important figure for secular students. She said that between existential despair associated with climate change and political despair associated with the lack of progressive legislative efforts, people need more hope.

"[Williamson] speaks a lot about how we need to keep up a sense of spirit and collective solidarity to push the movement forward," Yazdan Panah said. "She brings a lot of hope and optimism to progressive circles that really need that feeling."

Williamson also said that it is essential that people do not minimize the scope of the issues that the U.S. has to address today, but she “believes in political miracles.” She describes these political miracles as the result of “tremendous force and power from a consistent and committed dedication to doing the right thing despite institutional resistance."

Williamson added that if people are able to unite over their shared “principles of love and mercy and democracy,” there is hope that real change can happen throughout the country."

“I think people out there are wonderful, loving, and intelligent, and when we can harness all that, we can change the world. Far more people love than hate,” she said. “It's not an easy moment to be alive, in some ways, but it is nonetheless a moment that is rife with opportunity for miracles.”