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Students on Colgate’s London Study Group take a turn at oratory tradition

By Barbara Brooks on April 22, 2013
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Orator Anthony Tamburro ’14 was one of five London Study Group students to talk to a crowd at Hyde Park’s famous Speakers’ Corner.

Karl Marx reportedly did it. So did George Orwell, or so the story goes. But it’s definitely 100 percent true that Anthony Tamburro ’14, Caroline Kraeutler ’14, and three of their classmates on Colgate’s London Study Group made their positions heard at the Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, near the Marble Arch tube station.

The spectacle was as expected. Four or five orators speaking (or ranting) at one time, some perched atop ladders or waving placards — all within a few hundred square yards of each other. Passersby heckled or cheered, or just ambled past, in one of London’s oldest traditions celebrating free speech.

Tamburro, who admitted that “the pressure of the venue can bring out the hyperbole,” took his turn in the spotlight to talk about “how democracy does not work, and how the mob rule of our current political system is ruining everything.” About 50 people gathered around.

“It was really special to be a part of that continuing tradition,” Tamburro said. “Public discussion is very important to the historical process: so many movements, from abolitionism to communism, for example, have started on soap boxes. Simply changing the meaning of a word in the popular usage can have great historical consequences, as can documenting what somebody may or may not have said over the course of their life.”

Kraeutler, who was a novice at speaking in public, condemned the notorious Page 3 feature in the British tabloid, The Sun, which every day features a large photograph of a topless female. She became interested in the way the media portrays women last semester, in her Introduction to Women’s Studies class with Professor Meika Loe.

“I discussed how the feature exploits and sexualizes women, and how it consistently undermines the progress the female gender has made in Britain (equal voting rights in 1928, Sex Discrimination Act in 1975, first female prime minister in 1979, etc.). I said that Page 3 perpetuates the outdated sexist norms of the 1970s and contributes to a culture of sexual violence against women.”

Alan Cooper, professor of history, who offered credit to any student who spoke out, said “I thought they were incredibly brave, because the atmosphere is a bit intimidating — and they were talking about politics (for the most part) in public to strangers. This is something that sticks with the students forever.”

Cooper knows that firsthand. Conor Tucker ’10, and Jeremy Bennett ’09, who took their turns during an off-campus study group with Cooper in 2008, both now have careers in politics.

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