Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently visited Bryant University’s campus in order to talk about America and its future as a leader in the world. The event, sponsored by the Student Programming Board’s Student Arts and Speaker Series committee, was spearheaded by Mikayla Ott & Amreen Ahmad. Kennedy, President of the Waterkeeper Alliance, mentions that the key to America’s success will be in allowing capitalism to thrive while at the same time pivoting towards a greener and sustainable future. His experience as an environmental advocate shows, he fought bravely against those contaminated the Hudson River ruining the livelihood of the fishermen who relied on the body of water and the community. Kennedy mentions a conversation he had with his father at thirteen years old where his father, RFK sr. mentions, “They’re not just destroying the government, but permanently impoverishing these communities.” What Kennedy is referring here is the surplus of twenty trillion dollars of oil infrastructure that is holding us back as the industry lobbies with the government to support old energy. We resort to oil since it is a cheap alternative, but is it? Coal is both directly and indirectly subsidized, from the asphalt laid out on the road coming from taxpayer money, the damages that must be spent to reduce the effects of acid rain, and as laws enables coal and oil to stump solar and wind. A farmer out in North Dakota would love to have a wind turbine added to his land that, the value would jump from $800 and solely reliant on wheat to $3,800 per acre simultaneously making him an energy entrepreneur.

How do we combat this? Kennedy notes three key points of action. The first being solving the Inertia of Incumbency. 28 trillion dollars of infrastructure exists from the old energy coalition that he quotes as “anchoring us down.” New infrastructure should align itself to allow new forms of energy to become profitable the same way the internet and telecom industry has. Europe has led the way in this capacity from the Nordic nations, Iceland, to now mainland Europe as well as China leading the globe in renewable investments.  Secondly, we must have a national grid to achieve efficiency as a marketplace for energy. Imagine if our companies did not have exchanges to facilitate transactions of equity, debt, and investments. The grid we have is incapable of sending electrons from somebody in the Midwest to coastal cities. Thirdly, there should be little intervention on behalf of the government in the order of the energy industry. As he puts it, “Show me a polluter, I’ll show you a subsidy.” Disruption can happen, it happened with Ford’s Model T as the price dropped, with IBM personal computers which was first mocked, and with smartphones.

In meeting with Robert personally I asked him what can I do, what can we do? He looked at me simply and said we need people like you and enabled, passionate, and educated citizens to get involved. I concur and the only true way to enact positive change is to do as he has. To get involved in entrepreneurship, in politics, and in leading innovation beyond imagination. The model of capitalism has not failed us; it is those who hide behind the veil of a free market that damage our prosperity as a nation. After all Americans are an example and leaders of the world, truly a “City Upon a Hill.”

Thank you to the Student Programming Board for hosting such a monumental speaker on campus. Additionally, thank you to James Imrie of James Imrie Photography for providing a photo of the event.

The Co-Chairs of the Student Arts and Speakers Series, Mikayla Ott and Amreen Ahmad, have organized a trip to see Rent: The Musical at the Providence Performing Arts Center on Friday, April 7th. Tickets are $10 for students, $20 for faculty/staff/guests and the bus will leave at 5:30PM. The annual Spring Food and Arts Festival will also be held on May 5th outside the Fisher Student Center.