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Young Activists’ Group at RNC Is Politically Diverse, United Against Trump

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 19, 2016 3 min read
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If Maria Oswalt had to teach a high school class about presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, what would the 21-year-old pro-life, anti-violence student say? She says she’d stick to the facts and try to be fair. But she has her opinions.

“He definitely supports a lot of aggressive violence that I oppose,” Oswalt said.

Outside the Quicken Loans Arena, which is hosting the Republican National Convention this week, I ran into Oswalt and three other young women from Life Matters Journal, a Pittsburgh-based, nonprofit and non-partisan group that opposes all forms of “aggressive violence,” from capital punishment and drone strikes to abortion and embryonic stem cell research. The organization works on college campuses and elsewhere to promote its “consistent life ethic” view that human life should be protected.

On Monday on Prospect Avenue, the four women (all of whom sported hair of various colors) were handing out fliers tailored to those who identify with various political labels. One, pitched to libertarians, asked the question, “We want to protect the rights of every individual — but are we leaving anyone out?” to stir the political pot.

She may be politically “conservative” on reproductive issues. And she doesn’t like the idea of free tuition at public colleges. But Oswalt, who’s a self-described libertarian, is firmly against Trump’s rhetoric about war, how he talks about women and minorities, and his charged rhetoric in general.

“In my opinion, if they learn the facts, they should be opposed to him,” Oswalt, a University of Alabama student, said of teaching high schoolers about Trump.

How would fellow Life Matters Journal activist Christina Healy, a 24-year-old medical school student at Case Western Reserve University, deal with a high school class about Trump? Simple: She’d show video of the candidate. Merely having the class read or listen to his words wouldn’t really convey why Trump bothers the group, said Healy.

Jaded Already?

When we asked about the view of the 2016 campaign from the college campus, 20-year-old University of Pittsburgh student Rosemary Geraghty said she basically saw two camps. One group, she said, is “super-passionate” about the race and is very engaged.

“There’s also people who are just completely jaded by the process, even though this is their first election,” Geraghty said.

What bothers 27-year-old Life Matters Journal activist Aimee Murphy is that, in contrast to some media stories, many of her friends who

vigorously backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination are now simply “falling in line” behind former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

And she doesn’t like what she thinks are Clinton’s positions that support “aggressive violence” (like international warfare) either.

“It’s like they have no integrity,” Murphy said of such students.

Murphy’s own response to Trump’s rhetoric and Trump himself is pretty blunt: “Do you actually care about human beings at all?”

One key lesson for young people disillusioned with the national election, Oswalt said, is to look elsewhere for causes and candidates to support.

“It starts locally,” she said.

Paying for College, Firearms, and More

The disparate views Healy and Oswalt hold cover other issues too. Healy likes the idea of tuition-free college at public universities, an idea proposed by Sanders, although his proposal would need to extend to private universities like Case Western: “I’m going to have a lot of debt after my degree.”

But that policy doesn’t hold water for Oswalt, who thinks such a policy would simply lead to greater demands for more young people to earn more higher education credentials: “I think it would just devalue the undergraduate degree.”

And while Healy said the ability for people to openly carry firearms legally around Quicken Loans Arena made her nervous, Oswalt said she supports open-carry laws. But she added, “I feel like a lot of it is for show and creating a lot of divisiveness.”

We asked if they’ve gotten to talk with a decent number of other young people around the arena, and they were positive about the reception they were getting.

“We kind of tend to attract young people any way, with the hair,” Oswalt said.

Photos from top: Portraits of activists Christina Healy, Rosemary Geraghty, Aimee Murphy, and Maria Oswalt (Swikar Patel/Education Week); Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Omaha, Neb., in May. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Follow us on Twitter at @PoliticsK12.

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