The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Defending rights

Aaron Vehling

A looming cold may have agitated the voice of Judy Richardson during her three in-class presentations Thursday at UW-Eau Claire, but the cold didn’t hurt her intentions as a keynote speaker that night.

Richardson, a woman who has put her life in danger as a civil rghts activist during the 1960s, spoke to students, staff and community members alike in Zorn Arena.

“We were young people,” Richardson said, speaking of her experiences with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during her college years. “The only thing we had to lose was our lives.”

The large issue SNCC dealt with during the 1960s was getting black people registered to vote without getting them killed, Richardson said.

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“You start to gain the ability to cope no matter what,” Richardson said. “That is the greatest lesson I have learned.”

Richardson was born and raised in Tarrytown, N.Y., about 25 miles north of New York City, she said. Richardson attended Swarthmore College, Pa., on a full scholarship. Her scholarship was appreciated, considering the very high tuition at Swarthmore, she said.

“We (Swarthmore) took all the Harvard rejects,” Richardson said with a smile.

As a member of SNCC staff, Richardson made $10 a week, she said. The pay was not what motivated Richardson to continue working for the organization.

“The (Civil Rights) Movement formed a lot of who I am now,” she said.

Members of SNCC worked in areas such as rural Alabama, Mississippi and southwest Georgia, she said.

Richardson also spoke of her opinions on a war with Iraq. She said the Bush administration is using America’s fear of terrorism to justify the pending war, and the Constitution is in jeopardy and wonders why the president wants to go to war.

“There has been no debate in the halls of Congress about this war,” Richardson said. “We cannot suspend the Constitution to defend the Constitution … otherwise, what are we fighting for?”

Throughout the presentation, Richardson quoted several articles clipped from various national newspapers that supported her thoughts and opinions.

As Richardson paged through her papers and clippings, she came upon one particular column where Helen Thomas, an 82-year-old former United Press International reporter said, “I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to war … I can accept the logic of a just war, but your war does not pass the test Mr. President.”

Junior Anne Schmidt attended the presentation for a class and said she enjoyed Richardson as a speaker.

“She had a lot of factual information to back up her main points,” Schmidt said. “Her ideas seemed very credible.”

Richardson stressed economic equity as one of the main things she was fighting for as a member of SNCC and still continues to fight for today. The gap between the haves and the have-nots needs to be bridged, she said.

“The average CEO makes more in one day than the average American makes in one year,” Richardson said. “There are 12 million children living in poverty.”

Richardson went on to explain how it will cost the country $93 billion to wage war on Iraq.

“It will be an expensive war and a long war, particularly if we’re doing it by ourselves,” she said.

Richardson challenged the audience to think about why the country is waging war against Iraq, and in particular, why the country is doing so at this point in time. She questioned the link between al Qaeda and Iraq.

“This war is not about weapons, not about terrorism or U.N. resolutions,” Richardson said. “It is intended to make the U.S. a full-fledged global empire. The U.S. will create base in Iraq and conquer from there.”

Richardson also spoke of Last year, Richardson gave the money she would have spent on Christmas presents to this organization, which helps citizens find their political voice, she said.

Currently, Richardson is working with women from SNCC on a documentary, “Hands on the Freedom Plow: The Untold Story of Women in SNCC.”

As the presentation came to a close, Richardson challenged the audience with words that encapsulated her, a woman who has dedicated her life to improving Civil Rights: “How do you leave this world having worked to make it better for the folks behind you?”

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