Web Leslie/ THE HOYA Documentarian Michael Moore addressed a full house in Gaston Hall Friday.

Web Leslie/ THE HOYA
Documentarian Michael Moore addressed a full house in Gaston Hall Friday.

Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore, infamous for his irreverent take on popular controversies, tackled politics and student activism in Gaston Hall Friday.

Despite discussing heavy issues such as the national debt and health care, Moore set a casual tone for the packed afternoon lecture with his own attire, sporting a green baseball hat, plain T-shirt, jeans and sneakers.

The famous activist centered his talk, which was sponsored by the Lecture Fund, on the importance of student activism and how he first got involved in the issues on which he focuses his films.

Moore threaded Christian references throughout his talk while commenting on his spiritual upbringing. As a Catholic himself, he cited the influence anti-war activists Philip Berrigan and Fr. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., had on his interest in the priesthood. Moore attended seminary for a year, but he eventually left to pursue a different path.

“Jesuits have always had a social conscience. … I think this country is fortunate to have a number of Jesuit colleges,” Moore told The Hoya after the event. “Georgetown is one of the great institutions in this country. There are people have gone here who have gone on to do tremendous good and there are people who’ve gone here who’ve gone on to do tremendous evil — like most great institutions.”

Moore attended University of Michigan-Flint, majoring in political science and theater. However, he also chose to leave college after a year of enrollment.

“I enjoyed school,” Moore said in his speech. “But I was bored of it all.”

Not shying away from controversial topics, such as a strong re-evaluation of the capitalist system, Moore encouraged dialogue during his visit, urging conservative students to ask questions during the question and answer session.

“We all agree on more things than we disagree on, and we never really talk about that,” Moore said in an interview with The Hoya.

He recounted an episode featured in his autobiography, “Here Comes Trouble,” in which he highlighted the type of authority figures who galvanized him to run for school board and begin his life as political activist.  For Moore, after seeing a student stopped from walking during his high school graduation ceremony, something snapped.

“That changed me for the rest of my life,” Moore said. “I couldn’t live with myself like that, that I just let that happen, that I didn’t say anything. It was a small thing, but it really affected me and I haven’t shut up since.”

Reinforcing the importance of voicing one’s opinions, Moore identified an earlier experience when he won a competition for giving a speech about racial discrimination.

“I don’t think you have to do a lot, just a little bit,” Moore said, addressing how students can get involved in social justice. “Don’t turn your head the other way.”

Students in attendance were impressed by Moore’s openness to student opinions and personal approach to controversies, which was more relaxed than in his films.

“I think that he came across as much less of an extremist than he is often made out to be,” Melissa Miller (COL ’12) said. “He seemed passionate and liberal, but not the foaming nutcase that he often is made to seem. In general, I thought it was a cool opportunity to hear such a prominent public voice speak on the issues of the day.”

When asked about the amount of activism he sees present in the younger generation today, Moore responded that he felt youth engagement often occurs but goes unreported.

“I think there’s actually a lot of activism, but the press just doesn’t cover it,” Moore said. “You made Obama happen. Obama wouldn’t have been elected without young people. He lost every other white age group except 18 [through] 29.”

Throughout the talk, he continually emphasized the overarching theme of the power of youth.

“Most stuff happens because of young people,” Moore said. “All through history, it’s young people that are out there doing it [and] making it happen. That just has to continue.”

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