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"If the people only knew,
if they could visualize,
just open their eyes...
even stop to think about,
if they could open their minds...."
- Chicago, Poem for the People.
Educational activities are among the most important actions that a college right-to-life group can undertake. The following ideas are primarily concerned with educating members of your college community about right-to-life issues. Remember that education is a fundamental goal of the college right-to-life group.
Educational topics of interest to the general campus community include: an introduction to the case against abortion; the current political situation; feminism and abortion; infanticide; euthanasia; in-vitro fertilization; contraceptives; handicaps, both physical and mental; the medical aspects of abortion; the science of embryology, pre-natal development; contraception; natural family planning; child-abuse; suicide; the psychological aspects of abortion; genetic engineering; the devaluation of human life; care for the terminally ill; ethical perspectives on abortion; different religious perspectives; care of the elderly....
It has been mentioned that each college group must also take some care to educate its own members. This will occur as a natural side-effect of your efforts to educate the general campus community, but you should also make some special effort to educate your own members separately. Your members are more interested in right-to-life topics than the average student. For your members, you can field rather long and topically advanced programs. You can run seminars to teach them how to give speeches, how to debate, lead groups, how to counsel frightened mothers-to-be, etc. You can teach them the history of abortion, infanticide, and the pro-abortion and the pro-life movements. Do not neglect this important aspect of college right-to-life work as from among your members will come many of tomorrow's pro-life leaders.
Lectures. Lectures are one of the most common educational efforts on the college campus. Students spend most of there time sitting in class listening to professors drone on and on, so, if your group is going to present a lecture you must get a lively speaker, and you must convince people that the topic is interesting. Ordinarily, college groups rely on the local right-to-life organizations for speakers, and these organizations will generally have experienced people, but it is possible to find other pro-life speakers, too. You can contact local doctors, lawyers, politicians, nurses, newsmen, politicians, ministers, teachers, or other professionals; find out their views on right-to-life issues, and ask them to speak. In general, you want someone who is knowledgeable, articulate, and who speaks with authority.
Not all talks have to be given in lecture halls or auditoriums, by the way; some of the more informal ones could be held in dormitory lounges. For instance, you could invite a pro-life registered nurse or a gynecologist to give informal talks about abortion in the lounges of, say, your women's dormitories. At the University of Pittsburgh, resident assistants (RA's) are required to organize one talk or project per term for the students on their floor. Contraception is a favorite topic on girls' floors, and the speakers often come from abortion clinics. In this type of situation a pro-life group might suggest the names of pro-life speakers to the RA's.
Bunching speakers together is a way to cover a set of right-to-life topics in, say, the course of an afternoon or over a week. Some college groups sponsor a "Human Life Awareness Day" or a "Respect Life Week" in which they set up a schedule of seminars, speakers and/or films as an educational effort. This is a way to make a splash on campus, but you have to choose the proper time (stay away from mid-term or final exams, for instance) and you have to make a big publicity push to convince students that your events are interesting. Having a speaker with lots of name-recognition to start or finish up your educational series is a good way to gain interest.
The panel discussion is another way to arrange for multiple speakers. Here several speakers appear together and address the same topic from different points of view. For instance, you might round up a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi, and a Protestant minister to speak about the positions of their faiths on abortion and infanticide.
It should be noted that getting other groups, such as your student government or your debate club, to co-sponsor a speaker is not only an excellent way to build credibility, but a good way to increase attendance, too. If you are bringing someone in to talk about the psychological aspects of abortion, why no try to get your school's Psychology Club to co-sponsor the talk? Is your next speaker black? Invite your school's Black Student Alliance to be a co-sponsor the talk. Does your student government sponsor speakers? Why not try to get them to bring some well known pro-life speakers to campus? Co-sponsoring talks with other groups can cut expenses, too.
Debates. It is possible for college right-to-life groups to host debates on right to life issues. Debates might be arranged between a member of your group and a member of your college's pro-abortion group. Make sure that your representative is a good speaker and well-prepared for the debate's topic - don't get into something that is over your head. Debates could also be arranged between pro-lifers from local or national groups and equally well-known pro-abortionists. Any debate will mean that you will have to cooperate with "the other side," but it should pay off in increased attendance and media coverage.
Big-Name Speakers. The best speaker is, of course, the one to whom the most people will listen. Such well-known figures as U. S. Congressmen, Senators, Presidential candidates, famous doctors, authors of books (for example, Ken Kesey - author of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - has been known to speak against abortion), actors, and so on can sometimes be imposed upon to speak on your campus. A big-name speaker is a big project. Only half of the trouble is scheduling them to talk. There is usually a large honorarium, travel expenses, and hotels to worry about. Publicity for the event must be very strong.
Funding can be a big problem because it is hard to charge admission for campus pro-life functions - you simply will not attract very many college students if admission is charged because they don't have much money to spend. There are imaginative ways to get around the funding problems and bring big-name speakers to your campus, however. You can try to get funds from your student government by calling it a "special campus event." Or you can ask your school administration for funds; most schools have some type of money set aside for speakers. You could also try to get another pro-life organization to chip in part of the expenses in return for inviting their officers to a private reception for the speaker.
Several college right-to-life groups in a region might try to arrange for a big-name speaker to talk on each of their campuses while he is in the area. In this way you can cut down a speaker's travel expenses. All it takes is a little cooperation.
Another interesting possibility are organizations like the Young America's Foundation. The purpose of the Foundation is to encourage conservative activities on college campuses, and while not all of your group's members will be conservatives, the Foundation has helped some colleges to sponsor pro-life speakers. The Foundation does not maintain a speakers' bureau, but does provide funding in various amounts for conservative speakers once a campus group has made arrangements on its own. The campus group is responsible for determining the speaker it intends to invite to campus, how much money will be need to cover fees and transportation, etc. Then the group must contact the Foundation to see how much of the cost they can cover. You must show the initiative.
It is the primary aim of the Foundation to invigorate conservative activity on the college campus. Two well-known conservative pro-life speakers who have been brought to college campuses with the help of the Foundation are Joseph Sobran and Mildred Fay Jefferson. You should contact the Foundation before starting to see if your group qualifies for support. You can write to: Foundation Program Director, Young America's Foundation, 110 Elden St., Herndon, Virginia 22070.
If you can overcome the obstacles, having a big-name speaker can pay off big in increased recognition for your group and increased awareness of right-to-life issues on your campus.
Religious Organizations. At most schools the various campus ministers will usually have some sort of student groups called "fellowships" or the like. The students in these groups will usually be very open to the pro-life viewpoint, but they will also be unfamiliar with it. Your group can develop a short program for presentation to these fellowships. A speaker, equipped with a movie such as Preview of A Birth or a slide show and brochures can be very effective with these groups.
There are two ways to approach this activity. You can get students from your group to be the speakers; this can work well as students often will listen to their peers before they will listen to older folks, but it requires a lot of preparation on your group's part. You have to train your speakers. The other way is to have your group act as the catalyst and go-between for the fellowships and your local right-to-life organizations. Members of your group could contact the fellowships and arrange for them to host speakers from the local right-to-life organizations which have a regular speakers' bureau. You can reach out to a broad variety of religious groups in this way.
This type of presentation can also be used for groups other than religious ones, with the appropriate modifications. The groups that might be interested in your group's presentation would include the College Republicans, the College Democrats, the Philosophy Club, the Debate Society, and your student government.
High School Students. Educational efforts can also be aimed at high school students; in fact, you will probably find high school students much more receptive to pro-life presentations than college students are. Something happens when a young adult goes away to college. Often, instead of becoming more open to new ideas and controversies, they become very close-minded. Plus, sexually active college students will feel they need abortion as a "safety valve" to protect them from "accidents." Not pleasant, but true. High school students are not generally so disenchanted with the world.
Students of college age can go into high schools and talk to students and be received much more warmly than speakers the age of, say, thirty and older. High school students generally identify with and admire college students. Students from our group have talked to groups of high school students and were amazed by the interest they showed in our pro-life message. It is said that we are all born "for life." Our natural impulse is to protect and nurture that which is living, and thus we must subvert our feelings in order to destroy lives. In high school that natural impulse is for the greatest part still intact. Bill Jacob of the Carnegie-Mellon University group found that leafleting at area high schools as students were dismissed from school was a very successful way to reach high school students.
Educational Films. Films, shown in conjunction with a speaker or by themselves, can be a successful educational tool. There are some excellent films, such as Preview of A Birth which your group could draw upon. Your local right-to-life organizations should be able to loan films to you. Adequate publicity is important to have a successful film showing. Slide shows, particularly those dealing with the embryological facts of pre-natal development, can also be effective. I should note that at Carnegie-Mellon University we had rather poor attendance at a film series we hosted. Part of this was due to inadequate publicity, and part of the poor attendance was due to just plain lack of interest. The films were good films, but perhaps we would have done better showing just one.
Pairing Films. An untested idea involves the teaming up of movies. Pick out a popular "oldie" - one that is well-known and well-liked. A Charlie Chaplin movie, or one starring the Marx Brothers might go over well. Casablanca or Gone With The Wind would draw large crowds. (They have the added advantage of being much cheaper to rent than newer films.) You then show the popular film in conjunction with a short pro-life film like The Slippery Slope or a film with a pro-life message like Peege. Hopefully, the more popular film will attract a sizable audience for the pro-life film. Be sure that the popular film doesn't contain a message that undermines pro-life ideals, that is, you don't want to show a violent film or one of questionable morality.
This idea should work well, especially if you can avoid charging admission. (If you must make money, consider lowering the admission fee and selling refreshments to cover your costs.) Another variation on this theme might be to borrow a video cassette player and show the movies in the TV room or lounges of dormitories. Pro-life films are available on video cassettes, and it is possible to rent video cassettes of popular films. This would be cheaper than renting a film, hiring a projectionist, and getting tickets, but of course fewer people could watch it at the same time.
Mini-Messages. Mini-messages are short, pithy statements of fact or quotes by famous people that can be printed in the classified advertisements in your campus newspaper, given to your campus ministers to insert in their weekly bulletins, put on campus computer bulletin boards, or included on newsletters. Your group can assemble a collection of these and run them from time to time in the paper. Our group at Carnegie-Mellon University used to run the slogan, "Rest Easy, You've Already Been Born" in the our paper, and it did attract a fair amount of attention. Mini-messages that are statements of fact can be a fairly effective educational, some might say "propaganda" device.
Essay Contests. Your group could sponsor a campus right-to-life essay contest. By choosing an appropriate topic and offering some type of prizes, your group should engender some interest among the student body. You might attempt to get your campus newspaper or the English Department to co-sponsor the contest with you or to agree to publish the winning essays. In any event you will want to publicize the contest well among those taking English and religion and philosophy courses. It may be that a student could tie his essay in with a paper written for one of his courses.
Another possibility, one that would work best to create enthusiasm for letter writing within your group, would be for your group to offer its members a cash prize for the best letter to the editor written to your campus paper during the course of a semester.
Information Tables. Set an information table up in your student union or near the entrance to a cafeteria. Have educational literature for folks to look at and read. Some colorful photos showing fetal development or perhaps some fetal models (borrowed from your local pro-life group) would be effective visual aids. A repeating slide show would also work well. Keep the tone of discussion around the table light and informal, and try to educate people about the right to life.
Internships. A more limited and more expensive intra-organizational educational effort would be for your group to send a member or two to a program like the Legislative Internship Program. These 8-week summer internships give participants experience working in the political world. Students go through an intensive training session, including some experience serving as lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
There are also National Right to Life News Internships. These are primarily for sophomores or juniors majoring in journalism, communications, or political science, and possessing some writing experience. Call NRL News at (202) 626-8800 or write to Suite 500, 419 7th Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20004 for more details.
Other possibilities along this line include sending a representative to the annual National Right to Life Convention, your state's pro-life convention, or a conference sponsored by American Collegians for Life (ACL) or Collegians Activated to Liberate Life (CALL). Your group could raise the money necessary to send one of your members to these programs, or you could get some other organization to sponsor your students.
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© Copyright Andrew A. Siicree, 1985, 1997.
Permission is granted to any pro-life group or pro-life individual to copy this handbook provided that proper attribution is given.