Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The internal monologue of a Swarthmore Kick Coke activist, Class of 2009, when the Swarthmore campus eliminated all Coca-Cola products, circa 2006:
Much like Robert Frost, I like to take the more difficult roads, metaphorically speaking. The roads not taken, if you will. Sure, I could’ve breezed through my undergraduate years, taking advantage of my double legacy at Harvard and spending 4 years living on Easy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. But like Martin Luther King Jr., I had a dream. And my dream was to go to Swarthmore, and make a real difference in the world.
Like countless oppressed people half a century or so ago, I could have taken the easy way out, and sat idly by in the back of the bus. But like Rosa Parks, I decided to sit in the proverbial front of the bus, and become an Honors History and Course Peace and Conflict Studies double major. Sure, I could have taken an easy, bogus, back-of-the-bus major, like Film and Media Studies or Psychology, but then I never would have been able to accomplish all that I have today.
I am so overjoyed to announce that we have won; no Swarthmore student will be able to purchase or enjoy any Coca-Cola products on campus. Please remember that this is a victory for all of us, and not just for me. As much as you may want to glorify me and my good deeds, remember that I am only one of you. Let the Kick Coke victory be a reminder to you all that if you try hard enough, grand and permanent positive change is within your reach.
I can’t tell you how happy I am that, much like Mahatma Gandhi, I was able to accomplish my goals through nonviolent means. It’s so wonderful that Swarthmore was receptive to all of that information about how Coca-Cola may or may not be committing human rights violations, which I got off of a website. I’m glad that they heeded our nonviolent protest, so that the militia we were forming was never made necessary.
It is still difficult for me to believe that we got the school to permanently remove all of its Coca-Cola products. I’m pinching myself! I’m kind of like Mother Theresa, in that I will improve the world through my charitable acts (I didn’t even get course credit!). They said it couldn’t be done, but I did it. I kicked Coke, much as St. Patrick kicked all of the snakes out of Ireland.
I will be graduating soon, in the Spring of 2009, but I’m comforted to think that my legacy of removing Coke from campus will live on forever. I will be leaving this wonderful institution with the knowledge that it truly is possible to effect enduring change. And if I can make a difference in the Dining Services choices of my small liberal arts college, I am sure that I can make my mark on the world at large. Maybe I can bring peace to Darfur, or at least prevent everyone in Darfur from drinking Coca-Cola products. I believe that great things are ahead. Only time will tell.
Peter Liebenson ’11 is the Editor-in-Chief of Spike, the campus humor magazine.