An overflowing Sudler Hall erupted into deafening applause on Friday evening to Marianne Williamson’s final words of wisdom: “Give yourself one hour a day, cry it out. The other 23, go kick ass!”
Much of the crowd knew Williamson, not for her nonprofit work or her authorship of over a dozen books — including four New York Times number one bestsellers — but rather for her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. Williamson –– who came to campus upon an invitation from the Yale Political Union –– has developed a platform centered on harnessing the power of love and generating massive political participation to address issues plaguing Americans and the world. Approximately 300 people were in attendance at the event, doubling the average turnout of YPU events, according to YPU President Milan Vivanco ’21.
“We are both a country based on the most enlightened and aspirational principles that have ever blessed the world,” Williamson told the crowd. “We are a generation filled with people whose hearts are ablaze with what that means and the awesome opportunity and responsibility that bestows upon us. And we’ve also had people among us who were the most violent perpetrators of transgression against the very principles on which we stand. That has always been true. We have always been both.”
Williamson’s nearly hour-and-a-half-long speech focused on the historical arc of progress in America. She emphasized the role of large activist movements driven by the people — namely abolition, women’s suffrage and civil rights — to create lasting political change. Although America regularly experiences periods of regression, she believes the public will self-correct, rise up and “step in” to continue the nation’s progress.
“The status quo does not change itself,” she said. “What is the chapter that this generation is going to write?”
Beyond her analysis of the history of slavery and race in America and her call for $500 billion in reparations, Williamson attacked “corporate aristocracy” and the subsequent erosion of democratic values. She also criticized wealth inequality, chronic trauma facing American children, climate change and several other issues.
Williamson elaborated on some of her legislative plans, which include the establishment of two new cabinet-level departments — the U.S. Department of Peace designed to “wage peace” and the U.S. Department of Children and Youth to invest in American children’s futures.
Her proposed initiatives also include a referendum, which if passed would institute one mandatory year of national service. Instead of assisting in military efforts, these programs would tackle issues such as climate change, crumbling infrastructure and struggling rural communities.
“The YPU is at its best when it’s doing events like Marianne Williamson,” Vivanco said. “The beauty of the Yale Political Union is the capacity to bring people together and get them to engage politically and ask people that they’re interested in and inspired by questions about the political process, about how to better engage and how to think about the world.”
Vivanco added that the union chose to invite Williamson because of her relevance as a political actor as well as her dramatic and exciting presence on the stage.
Although Williamson has struggled in the polls and did not qualify for the most recent Democratic debate on Oct. 15, her supporters remain enthusiastic.
“When Marianne gets up there and talks about love and policy and how good American people are, I think what she’s doing is calling for fundamental pattern disruption. She’s calling for the idealists and dreamers to step up into the realm of public policy,” said Barbara Holbrook, a volunteer for Williamson’s campaign.
Holbrook added that while Williamson’s “revolution idea” has not frequented national headlines nor is it reflected in strong polling numbers, she is still “the dark horse in this race.”
After the event, attendees said that hearing Williamson in person, instead of just reading about her online, gave them a more positive outlook on her candidacy.
“Marianne Williamson was a lot more impressive than the media makes her out to be,” said Talat Aman ’23, an attendee at the event. “We hear all these things that she acknowledged in her speech about her being a crazy witch lady — and the crystals — but I think that, in the end, she made some good points about people not taking her seriously.”
Williamson is one of 18 candidates vying for the Democratic nomination.
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