CEO Eric Liu to discuss civil activism in next Wheelhouse Talk

GVL / Courtesy -

GVL / Courtesy –

Drew Schertzer

Each and every person has the power to impact their surroundings through their citizenship. This can be accomplished through voting or contributing time and attending community meetings. On Wednesday, March 14, Grand Valley State University’s Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies will host a Wheelhouse Talk about these capabilities each citizen has.

Led by Eric Liu, author, columnist and CEO of Citizen University, this event will run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the L.V. Eberhard Center, Room 215. Liu will cover many topics that he discussed in his book, “You’re More Powerful Than You Think: A Citizen’s Guide to Making Change Happen.” 

“(Liu’s) book talks about where we are today as a society and the social fragmentation of our culture and social institutions,” said Melissa Baker-Boosamra, associate director of student life for civic engagement and assessment at GVSU. “He brings an inspirational message that mandates particularly for young people on how they can be active in the community.” 

Liu encourages engagement in civil processes regardless of political position or affiliation, Baker-Boosamra said. He encourages individuals to listen to one another and act from shared U.S. values.

“Liu is the perfect combination of goals at the Hauenstein Center Common Ground Initiative in engaging in democratic discussion and powering folks of this country,” said Chadd Dowding, senior program manager for the Peter C. Cook Leadership Academy at the Hauenstein Center. “This helps us to understand what political and democratic power mean to getting things done in this country.” 

Dowding believes that students play a large role in their communities. He said education applies to the community around students on campus and in the Grand Rapids area, adding that it’s valuable to see learning take a role in your life.

Student activism and empowerment through citizenship can be seen on a state and national level, too. For example, after the recent Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, students were able to bring national awareness to the issue of gun control, proving that students do in fact have the ability to bring community issues to the forefront of national political discussion.

Dowding said the college experience is about expressing activism, and according to Baker-Boosamra, there are numerous ways students can get involved in the community. On campus, students can participate in advocacy work or work through student organizations. Beyond hosting events, Baker-Boosmara said, students can see how these organizations can influence policy decision-making and be part of a broader political landscape. 

The Wheelhouse Talks series is organized to host local mentors to share their stories of leadership with students and the community. The leadership values are reflected in the Cook Leadership Academy, which is an institution for students who are leaders in their fields. Applications are currently open for students to apply to this program.

This Wheelhouse Talk will be the biggest of the year, according to Dowding. The event will be free and open to the public. To RSVP, visit under “Events.”