I told myself I wouldn’t get starstruck. However, when you are shaking hands with John Prendergast and George Clooney, it is hard not to go a little numb.
For the past two weeks, Stanford has hosted John Prendergast in a series of talks on topics ranging from the Sudanese referendum to conflict minerals to global citizenship and networking. If it wasn’t enough of a thrill to have Enough’s founder on campus, imagine our shock when he mentioned that George Clooney might be free for a night. The entire experience has been exhausting, slightly stressful, rewarding, informative, and ultimately inspiring.
On Friday, Stanford STAND had the opportunity to talk with John Prendergast over lunch. As is customary for lunch banquets, we went around the circle and each said our name. However, what was unusual was Prendergast’s interest in every person. He asked us about our motivations for joining STAND, our majors, our summer plans, how our parents met, and what we planned to do after Stanford. It was incredible to meet the person who I get all my “Enough” activist emails from, to hear his stories and his insider’s perspective. His energy and enthusiasm were certainly contagious. I also attended his talk on conflict minerals. Prendergast told a moving story that demonstrated the devastation of rape and sexual violence in the Congo and provided suggested actions for students to get more involved.
The event that generated the most attention featured John Prendergast and George Clooney speaking about the upcoming referendum in Sudan. Even with only five days’ notice, the event was wildly popular on campus; people began lining up two hours before we began distributing tickets. As presenters, Prendergast and Clooney were entertaining, humorous, knowledgeable, and relatable. In between jokes about elephantiasis, they discussed their recent trip to Sudan and explained the details of the upcoming referendum.
The most moving part of the event came at the end when they emphasized the importance of student activism now that Sudan’s referendum is less than 60 days away. Prendergast encouraged students to get involved by joining groups like STAND and Amnesty International. Clooney highlighted the unique, historic opportunity to stop a war before it starts. He talked about the importance of sustained, passionate involvement from individuals across the United States to generate the political will to keep Sudan high on the Obama administration’s agenda.
As the audience streamed out of the auditorium, I heard a girl say that she has always heard about this conflict in Africa but this is the first time she has understood what is going on. George Clooney and John Prendergast made the situation in Sudan accessible without undermining its complexity.
What is most exciting to me is all the momentum Prendergast and Clooney have stirred up at Stanford. On Facebook, many of my friends have posted the website www.sudanactionnow.org on their walls; I have received numerous inquiries about joining STAND; and during dinner I heard a debate at the table next to me about the U.S.’s role in Sudan’s referendum. Students at Stanford are now aware of the upcoming referendum and they are ready to raise their voices.
On behalf of Stanford STAND, a huge thanks to John Prendergast and George Clooney for their time, energy, and dedication. This has been an incredible experience and I’m thankful I was a part of it.
Mari Tanabe is a sophomore at Stanford and serves as the advocacy director of the university’s STAND chapter.