Speaker educates students and encourages: ACTION NOT APATHY

By Daniel Ucko

“Thank you everybody and good night!”

As he wrapped up the Q&A portion of his keynote speech at
Friday’s 3D Leadership Conference, former MTV correspondent Gideon
Yago quickly left the stage to avoid answering what turned out to
be the final question of the afternoon.

He was responding to a student who asked why Yago left MTV, the
“reality television lifestyle channel” where he had covered
politics and war for seven years, first as a copy writer and then
as an on-screen reporter.

It seemed like a prank at first, or at the very least a cop out
to avoid the MTV question. But Yago, 30, returned to the podium
briefly to admit his dodge and said he would answer the question in
private afterwards.

And he did. In brief, he told the student that MTV was no longer
covering news or taking the risks it was when he began his
career-launching stay in 2000 while he was still a history senior
at Columbia University.

Before speaking to over 300 students and a few staff for about
40 minutes, the man in all black took time to answer a few
questions about motivating young people and his firsthand
experiences as a young journalist in Iraq, Kuwait and on the trail
of the 2004 election with MTV’s “Choose or Lose” campaign.

“I was not a very political person going in to working at MTV,”
Yago said Friday morning in a well-lit Vela Major inside the Bronco
Student Center. “Working at MTV opened my eyes to a lot. It opened
my eyes to the sheer size and force of political power in this
country; of corporate power in this country.”

In his keynote, Yago stressed the importance of voting and
utilizing the Internet to mobilize real world change. He brought up
the Save Darfur movement as a prime example: the campaign was
started by three Georgetown students.

“The history of human evolution is that he on the side of
technology wins,” said Yago. “[The Obama campaign is] writing the
playbook on how to integrate online into real world turnout. That’s
also a campaign that’s been disproportionately favored by young
people. And I don’t think that the two are not correlated.”

While students easily take for granted social networking sites
like Facebook, the connection of a large group of people with a few
dollars can make a bigger difference than one corporation with
millions.

“Whereas college students would never get quoted by a candidate
because you guys are normally just digging for change in your
couches to buy ramen, now … you guys have the real power to
become political rainmakers,” said Yago.

While Yago did not feel there was a single issue up for vote
more important than another, he personally believes the nation
lacks a commonwealth: a single, uniting element.

“I thought this whole place was supposed to be a bunch of
roiling masses yearning to breathe free,” he said. “I think that
maybe there’s a renewed conversation that we should all have about
what this country is supposed to be.”

Yago also spoke about voting reform, covering the war when most
media had written it off, journalism and of course: leadership.

“The question is, ‘where do we go from here?'” said Yago. “This
has been a historical, groundbreaking year in terms of people’s
interest in the election … even if on most campuses, there’s a
large portion of [students] who want to sit around and turn the
dorm fish tank into a gravity bong.”

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Speaker educates students and encourages: ACTION NOT APATHY

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Speaker educates students and encourages: ACTION NOT APATHY

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