Ithaca College Quarterly 2003/#3   Ithaca College Commencement 2003
 
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Peace Pops and Politics    

Greenfield then introduced Cohen, whose remarks were more pointedly political. He noted that the philanthropic work done by Ben & Jerry's was influenced by the philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., who drew connections between racism, poverty, and militarism. "Since the days of the Cold War," Cohen noted, "our country has been spending half of its discretionary budget --- that's the amount of money Congress has available to allocate each year --- on the Pentagon. And the amount spent on health care, education, and housing pales by comparison."

To illustrate his point, Cohen produced a tin can and a container of BBs. He dropped one BB into the can to represent 15 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs and 6 BBs into the can to represent enough nuclear weapons to blow up all of Russia. He concluded by pouring 10,000 BBs into the can to represent the size of America's current nuclear arms arsenal.

"For two days' worth of the Pentagon budget, we could fully fund Head Start and provide Head Start for the one-third of all eligible kids who can't get into the program. For six days of the Pentagon budget, we could provide health care for all uninsured kids in the United States. For 12 days of the budget, we could rebuild all of the crumbling schools in our country over a period of 10 years. For 10 days, we could eliminate the need for Middle East oil. And for 12 days of the Pentagon budget, we could feed all of the 15,000 kids around the world who are dying of starvation and preventable disease each day," Cohen added.

As his comments were met with a mixture of cheers and jeers from the audience, Cohen urged the graduates, "Even if you've never voted before, if you've never helped get people registered, if you've never been political, now's the time to start. We've got to stand up and do our patriotic duty as Americans and say no, this is not the way our country was meant to be. No, I will not allow this to be done in my name and with my money."







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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 23 October, 2003