Tag Archives: activist alumni

Valarie Kaur’s Baccalaureate Address to the Class of 2013

by Valarie Kaur, ’03

On June 15th, 2013, alumna Valarie Kaur, gave the Baccalaureate Address to the Stanford Class of 2013. Kaur is an award-winning filmmaker, civil rights advocate and interfaith organizer, and this is what she had to say:

President Hennessy, Dean McLennan, professors and staff, family and friends, and the Class of 2013, it is a profound gift for me to return to Stanford to address you. Ten years ago, when I stood in this spot to deliver the student address, I believed what they always tell us on graduation day – that your Stanford education empowers to change the world, that we are the ones we have been waiting for. But what they don’t tell us in college is just how dangerous the journey might be and what that courage might cost.

So I could tell you the story of how I found my passion in a classroom in the Main Quad right over there, or how I snuck a raft onto Lake Lag in the middle of the night, or how I survived SLE [Stanford’s Structured Liberal Education program].

But the story I must tell you today begins in crisis. Continue reading

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Inappropriate Appropriations: An Interview With Adrienne Keene, ’07

by Annie Graham, ’14

Adrienne Keene is an ‘07 Stanford graduate who visited Muwekma-Tah-Ruk to speak on Monday night. Currently in her third year at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, she used her spare time or sheer determination to start a project alongside her life as a student: she writes a blog called Native Appropriations, concerned with (mis)representations of Indigenous peoples. Her work proves the potential of blogs to formulate individual ideas and change the minds of others. She is also a very upbeat and welcoming person — I got to sit down and ask her a few questions before her presentation.

Annie Graham: Would you say you were an activist at Stanford as an undergraduate?

Adrienne Keene: When I was a student, my activism was a little bit more limited. Stanford was the first place that I was exposed to issues of social justice and activism, in the sort of the “on the ground, protest signs” form. When I was an undergrad and was the co-chair of the Stanford American Indian Organization, we had a couple of instances of frat houses using the Indian mascot for various things. So that was the first time I was kind of involved in activism pushing back against it.

One thing I really appreciated about the Stanford administration, at least when I was a student here, is that they really supported the Native students on the mascot issue. So, whenever something popped up — and it happened fairly often, The Stanford Review was also using an Indian image for a while — the administration would have our back fairly quickly… the president would issue a statement saying the mascot was discontinued in 1971 and is not to be used for any reason anymore.

AG: What happened in grad school that made you become more of an activist? Continue reading

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On Art, Activism, and Rainbow Mohawks

by Holly Fetter, ’13 + Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, ’06

I had always imagined Stanford to be a particularly radical place. Back in the days when the closest I came to activism was wearing an Obama pin through the halls of my conservative high school, the escapades of my cousin Jonathan inspired the dream of an oasis called Palo Alto. Stories of his collegiate adventures were passed through the familial grapevine, reaching me in such a dramatized state that I couldn’t help but be enraptured by his coolness. He studied studio art, lived in a magical house called Theta Chi, skipped school to attend anti-war protests in San Francisco with his professors, left school for a few quarters to translate obscure texts in Florence, won a prize for illustrating Beowulf, and, perhaps most impressively, sported a rainbow mohawk as a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity.

Now he’s a bonafide artist residing in Brooklyn, NY, where the disheveled hipsters and rooftop parties let him know he’s far from his humble Montana roots. Jonathan has taken to writing and illustrating historical graphic novels. His latest book, called Trinity, tells the story of the atomic bomb. Meant to please high school students, physics geeks, history buffs, and general aesthetes alike, it’s a wonderful volume on the creation of destruction. Jonathan probes the mystery of the U.S.’ atomic power, only to leave any simple answers totally unattainable. The book has garnered incredible press, from a starred Kirkus review to articles in the Huffington Post, Boing Boing, Brain Pickings, Science News, the Boston Globe, and others.

Aside from being an impressive artist, he’s also an impressive activist. I thought I’d ask him a few questions about his experiences with art and activism in preparation for his upcoming reading in San Francisco. Continue reading

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