Alumni Spotlight: Adam Zuckerman
What motivated you to participate in AJWS Volunteer Summer?
AJWS President Ruth Messinger came to speak at my synagogue and mentioned this program. I had done community service work in Costa Rica the year before, and I spoke some Spanish already. Volunteer Summer started a different phase in my activism, including my work around Darfur.
Were there particular parts of your experience abroad that changed your activism?
It made me be more realistic to a certain extent about what I can do. I went to Honduras thinking that I could change the world. I realized that you can't do everything yourself. You need to do what you can with passion but you can't tackle every problem by yourself.
The trip also gave me a human connection to global poverty issues. Fair trade or sustainable development aren't abstract issues – the people you become close with in these communities, who are like your family there, deal with poverty every day; it's not just about trade policies in an abstract sense but how they affect these people's everyday lives.
What kinds of Darfur activism have you done?
I did a lot of work in high school with the Darfuris in my community, helping to get information out about rallies they organized in Portland and going with them to meet with our congressmen and senators. I organized a bus trip from Maine to the rally in Washington D.C. held by the Save Darfur Coalition. We got to go backstage and meet a lot the media and the Darfuris got to tell their story to the world.
I worked on the D.C. Darfur divestment campaign last year and, through the work of the Sudan Divestment Task Force, this year we just divested D.C.'s funds. Now I'm working on the George Washington University campaign as a member of the executive board of STAND [the student division of the Genocide Intervention Network]. We did a lot of events last year. We're probably the most active STAND branch in the country.
What inspired you to work on this issue?
Working with the Darfuris in Maine made it more of a personal issue, and I think I have continued because of them. Some of their families are still in Darfur, and I can't forget about them. It's also really exciting that, though I was probably one of the first kids in my state to really get started on this, now I see there are lots of kids who are really taking it up and who have made it a lot more of an issue.
Hopefully, the fact that these stories about the work that I did were able to get out, and that I was able to speak to students and other people in general, maybe inspired people to take on their own work and sort of become more active, whether on Darfur or other issues they really care about.
What are your plans for your future as an activist?
I'm in the School of International Affairs at George Washington and hope to double major in International Affairs and Latin American studies. I'm interested in political communication, and I want to be a lobbyist for human rights issues. The first time I went lobbying was with AJWS during the Volunteer Summer Domestic Yearlong Program. Since then I've gone back handfuls of times to speak about issues I've learned about.
I feel like I may not be as experienced as other people, but I have a lot of passion, I've gotten a lot of training from AJWS, and when I want to get a point across to people in power I pursue it very strongly. As a young person, I really get a huge rush from "speaking truth to power" that I don't get from anything else.
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