For months, I’ve been working with a small group of students in the Student Government Association (SGA) to host an event to recognize sustainability efforts on campus and to emphasize the importance of public higher education.
The Senate committee I was a part of had guidance from various administrators and staff members, who urged us to take advantage of the fact that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. would be on campus April 23 to deliver the Earth Day Festival 2012 Keynote Address. It didn’t take much convincing! Kennedy’s accomplishments for the environment are too long to list here, but please take a peek at the bio UMass Amherst published here. (Just know that he was named one of TIME magazine's “Heroes for the Planet” and everyone left his speech believing that he was… and that we could be too.)
The event-planning committee I was a part of decided to invite local business leaders, Amherst elected officials, state senators and representatives in the Pioneer Valley area, and of course, UMass students, faculty, and staff, to a reception and dinner, featuring local and sustainable food, before Kennedy’s speech. The hope was to strengthen these important relationships through this event. I was seated between Chancellor Holub and Director of Public & Constituent Relations Chris Dunn, and am pleased that I have gotten to know them both a little better.
Between dinner and dessert, we had a senior involved in the Sustainability Initiative on campus give a short presentation about the ways UMass Amherst has achieved a gold STARS rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and how we are working toward the highest rating of green. We were also pleased to have The Dynamics, the only co-ed a capella group on campus, perform. During their performance, the guests couldn’t help but smile. Their positive energy was infectious.
Although it was a lot of work to plan the event, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief as soon as guests were escorted to their seats in the Mullins Center. The first few rows of seats were reserved for guests of the event and we were all also invited to a dessert reception with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. His speech, called “Our Environmental Destiny,” despite being packed with startling facts about coal mining and oil companies and corrupt politicians, was ultimately inspirational and hopeful for the future of this country. I really couldn’t think of a better way to end my sophomore year than by meeting RFK Jr. and co-hosting an event to promote sustainability and public higher education with other students I now consider great friends.