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Actor to speak on social activism in education

Justine Palivoda, For The Miami Student

Emmy Award-winning actor and social activist Edward James Olmos will be the final speaker of the 2009-10 Miami University Lecture Series.

Olmos, best known for his roles in "Battlestar Galactica," "Miami Vice" and the film Stand and Deliver, has received wide acclaim as an actor, director and producer. However, Jeremy Bragg, assistant director of student activities and leadership, believes Olmos' merit as a speaker extends far beyond his celebrity.

"He's an amazing actor and he's taken his talents and used them to make a positive impact," Bragg said.

The topic of Olmos' lecture, "Social Activism and Education: How We Become One Gang," will draw on Olmos' own life experiences growing up in Los Angeles surrounded by the gang life. Bragg believes the lecture's message of activism is one that is emphasized by Olmos' own example and can be especially poignant for students.

"He talks about how he's seen education and social activism bring people together, how it allows people to overcome negative stereotypes and have a positive impact on society," Bragg said.

Lana Kay Rosenberg, chair of the Lecture Series committee, believes this message is even more relevant given the status of our education system.

"Money is being cut across education … and we are seeing that students can't just be spoon fed," Rosenberg said. "I hope his talk on campus will generate discussion because that's how we learn and how we grow."

Each year the Lecture Series committee works to bring in a series of speakers that represent a diverse set of topics and ideas. Bragg said activism and education was a topic the committee wanted to address and that Olmos was high on their list for many reasons.

"He spoke at Miami several years ago, so we already knew he was an excellent speaker," Bragg said. "At the same time his message is revised and the different topics he's speaking about are even more pressing now."

Rosenberg said Olmos is one of the best speakers Miami's ever had.

"He is a passionate man, working to create a world where all people are treated like human beings," Rosenberg said. "Not only is he kind and caring but he takes those qualities and uses them to be pro-active."

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Ultimately, Bragg hopes students at the lecture will take away a sense of their own potential as activists and a desire to enact change.

"It's my hope that students will leave with the idea that one passionate individual can make an impact on other peoples' lives," Bragg said. "Mr. Olmos' story shows how he has used his own talents to make a positive impact."

Sophomore Genna Schwartz has already been inspired by Olmos' message after seeing Stand and Deliver in her high school calculus class. She agrees the film's message plays an important role in education.

"As a teacher the more passionate you are about something the more important it is to students and the more they'll want to participate in it too," Schwartz said.

Olmos will speak at 8 p.m. March 22 in Hall Auditorium. Tickets for the lecture are free and can be obtained through the Shriver Center Box Office.