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New generation of activists

  Campus Digest  

Cornell sophomore Abigail Ozanne and her mother, Linda Gesling, relax on campus in April.

Abigail Ozanne, a sophomore elementary education major from the Twin Cities, spent her spring break in Israel and Palestine, observing the situation in the occupied territories, talking with residents, and meeting with political leaders—just as her mother did more than a decade back.“This is truly a broken land crying out for peace. Israelis and Palestinians both die senseless deaths in a downward spiral of violence that achieves nothing,” she told her parents in an e-mail from the West Bank.

One day she and her travel companions with Christian Peacemaker Teams escorted Palestinian children to school while Israeli soldiers aimed their automatic weapons. Another day she met Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Authority.

Rubble of buildings in Nablus that were bombed.

Her mother, Linda Gesling, director of church relations at Hamline University, took students to the Middle East before and after the first Gulf War. Like her mother did, Ozanne hopes to serve as “the eyes and ears of those who care about the Middle East” and share her experiences with audiences on campus and beyond.“Both of my parents are proud of my work for peace and justice. Those are both big family values in my home,” says Ozanne, co-founder of the student organization Cornell College for Peace and Justice.

Recent tumultuous times around the world have rallied a new generation of activists. “Although it ebbs and flows, I think there will always be a contingent of college students who will be active. The issues will not always be on the left of the political spectrum either,” says politics professor David Loebsack. “At Cornell, we have a relatively large group of progressives.”

Jeanne Firth

Jeanne Firth, a freshman from Leawood, Kan., who was arrested for trespassing at Camp Dodge near Des Moines during a protest of the war with Iraq, also comes from a family of peace activists. Her father, James “Buck” Firth, is a pastor with the United Church of Christ. “The Peace Ribbon in Washington, D.C., in the early eighties is the first peace demonstration I attended—at the age of 18 months—with my parents, grandmother, and aunt. I also went to the Nevada Test Site with my parents to protest the testing of nuclear weapons,” says Firth, who is pursuing a BSS in peace studies with a major in theater.

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