Passionate politics

Trump energizes opponents (and supporters) on campus


Donald Trump’s presidency has stirred political passion and activism across both sides of the political aisle. Yet instead of standing on the sidelines, some are channeling their energy to action, working to help at home or just outright diving into the political process.

Although Alannah Boyle always has involved herself in issues like gender inequality and sexual assault, the Manhattan College senior has avoided getting involved with politics. That is until just after the 2016 presidential election.

“I woke up on Nov. 9 and decided it was a dumb way to look at things,” Boyle said.

She attended the 2017 Women’s March just after Trump’s inauguration, which showed her many other women had uncertainty and fear of what a Trump presidency would bring.

“Women didn’t just march the day after Trump’s inauguration and go home and say, ‘That was fun,’” Boyle said. “Women are engaging. Women are running for office. Women are working on campaigns. We’re excited (about) 2018.”

That includes Boyle, who ‘s now volunteering on a state representative campaign in Connecticut. 

Rabea Ali, a Manhattan College sophomore, has become more active in the school’s Muslim Student Association, where she is now its president. She wants to tackle the divide she said is taking place between Muslims and non-Muslims on campus.

“The stigma placed on Muslims and our faith has made it difficult for some students to openly express their identity, which has made it increasingly difficult for our organization to reach out to Muslims on campus,” Ali said.

Her group hosted a town hall meeting last year where both sides discussed Trump’s travel ban. This semester, Ali’s association will take on events like interfaith prayers, knowing your rights, and Islam Awareness Week to plant the seeds for more in-depth conversations and better understanding.

“I want to help raise the next generation of leaders through education and activism, and encourage them to take a stand for the cause they believe in,” said Nicholas Santiago, a senior at Lehman College.

He supports Lehman’s Dream Team, an on-campus organization providing support to undocumented students, while sharing with everyone else the challenges these Dreamers face. 

Before the 2016 election, Santiago wasn’t very active. He spent time learning more about the political system and helping with his community’s local jobs program. 

“These [women’s] marches mark the first step in our advocating for justice and fighting against oppression,” Lehman junior Amna Azeem said. “These marches changed the question from a passive, ‘What can we even do?’ to ‘This is what needs to happen’ — and have been a long-time coming.”

Azeem is the vice president of Lehman’s Intersectional Feminist Club, and educates peers about graduate policy programs. Through forums like movie screenings, discussion groups and fundraisers, the feminist club has fostered in-depth conversations on topics ranging from DACA, the movement to kneel during the national anthem, and even the possible existence of undocumented immigrants on Lehman’s campus.

“To see an individual whose campaign was built on hate and division get elected to the highest political office of our country was painful, to say the least,” Azeem said. “It was in this moment that I decided to become more politically active.”

That means focusing less on the country’s “outdated” two-party political system and instead becoming passionate about causes. 

And now for the other side …

But Trump didn’t just inspire opponents. He’s rallied supporters as well, like Andrew Gauzza. When he saw how active those against the president were becoming, the Manhattan College sophomore realized he needed to get involved.

Gauzza reached out to his local Republican committee in his hometown of Beacon. When a plow dumped a bunch of snow in his family’s driveway during a snowstorm, he attended a council meeting. After learning about issues like sewage and water capacity concerns impacting his community, Gauzza went a step further — he ran for a seat on Beacon’s city council.

Although he lost the election, Gauzza remains politically engaged with plans to run for chair of the Republican committee.

Christian D’Agostino practically has politics in his DNA, going all the way back to when he was 10, helping his father campaign for a council seat in Stanford.

As D’Agostino got older, he handed out campaign literature, posted signs and made telephone calls on behalf of candidates outside of his father’s council run.

“I stay involved because I was able to help many fine people get elected,” D’Agostino said. “It is very important to have good people represent us.” 

D’Agostino is a member of Stanford’s Republican Committee where he interviews candidates wanting to run for office, as well as take part in the nominating process and help develop fundraising strategies. D’Agostino said he hopes to eventually run for a position on his hometown’s  government board.

“Although brash at times, I do feel President Trump has worked hard to do what is right for the American people,” D’Agostino said. “Unemployment is down, the stock market is up, American companies who were abroad are coming home.” 

“He has managed to get his tax legislation through, he supports the military, and ISIS is on the run. He has managed to do this in a very short time span.”

While they might not agree on much else, both sides of the political aisle shared agreement on how to get engaged.

“It is our time to give back to our great nation,” D’Agostino said. “Don’t let discouragement keep you from getting politically involved. It is up to us to preserve our liberties.”

“I know it is exhausting and it can feel as if change and progress are out of reach, Azeem said. “But the only way to move forward is to make sure that our voices are heard. 

“Political apathy is not the answer. Political action is.”