Peace enthusiast Alli McCracken ’10 is not one to sit idly by and watch events unfold. McCracken, who graduated with a degree in political science and religious studies, finds purpose in her passion for action.
“I always feel like what I am doing is meaningful,” explains McCracken of her work with CODEPINK, a woman-initiated, grassroots peace and social justice movement where McCracken serves as the Washington, D.C. office coordinator. “The coalitions we build are all in pursuit of some form of social justice – whether that is anti-occupation, women’s rights – we do amazing work all over the world.”
Daily, McCracken aids political activists in engaging with the government on many different levels, helping to create petitions, start e-mail and phone initiatives and establish social justice conferences. “We are constantly challenging the dialogue on these issues,” says McCracken. “We are helping other people get engaged in meaningful ways – and it’s exciting.”
A recent graduate, McCracken says her time at HWS sparked her pursuit of justice. “A lot of my inspiration comes from my professors,” remarks McCracken. “Hobart and William Smith Colleges have professors who really care about these issues- it’s contagious.”
In particular, she notes Professor of Public Policy and Political Science Craig Rimmerman’s Democracy and Public Policy course as planting the seed of social justice and Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav as her impetus for becoming engaged in Palestine and Middle East issues.
Following graduation McCracken lived in the West Bank for several months, doing volunteer work at a senior citizens center and at the Palestine Wildlife Society. There, McCracken says she experienced the oppression of an occupied country, witnessing injustices and hearing stories of women from across the Middle East. The experience, she explains, strengthened her convictions.
As a member at CODEPINK, McCracken has organized and participated in several campaigns aimed at shaping a new American foreign policy in the Middle East. She helped plan the conference “Move Over AIPAC” in May, mobilized support around the” Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza,” and was an active participant of CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign to boycott the cosmetics company Ahava.
McCracken was recently ejected from a U.S. House Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill for expressing anti-war profiteering sentiments. McCracken, joined by a group that included members of CODEPINK, other anti-war activists and war veterans of all ages, shouted her discontent at the public hearing, leading to her arrest.
During the hearing, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Congress that cutting any more than roughly $450 billion from U.S. defense spending during the next 10 years would devastate the military. He and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that deeper cuts would mean reductions in the force, making it difficult to keep troops in all critical areas around the globe.
“Secretary Panetta,” McCracken shouted, “when are we going to stop funding war and start rebuilding America? We have been at war for almost half my life and guys my age have PTSD. My generation deserves better!”
McCracken said her most recent protest was successful. After protesters were escorted from the hearing, members of Congress questioned Panetta on his plan for dealing with such widespread discontent surrounding the war.
In a blog she authored for political weblog PULSE, McCracken wrote that following her arrest, she received quite a bit of positive support from fellow activists and strangers. “Several of the messages are actually from active members of the military who told me our actions inspired them to seriously think about what they are doing overseas. A few mentioned that it sparked discussion among the people they are serving with, ” she says.
Currently, McCracken is spending a majority of her time in the office, helping to organize phone and letter campaigns and other forms of expressing discontent. She is also assisting in the creation of a book on drones and robotic warfare. “Our work is about connecting these movements, trying to connect them to the bigger picture.”
McCracken hopes that current students at HWS can see her work as a call to action. “It would be wonderful for students to see that activism is an option,” says McCracken.
With occupy movements forming in cities across the U.S. , now is a time in our country where change seems tangible, says McCracken. “It’s all different people from all different walks of life, expressing disenchantment with everything,” says McCracken. “Everyday people are standing up for what they believe; it’s picking up and not slowing down.”
McCracken also serves on the Board of Directors of the Tree of Life Educational Fund, an interfaith delegation based in Connecticut that travels to Israel and Palestine every year and also invites Israelis and Palestinians to the U.S. for an annual conference about peace in the Middle East.
To read McCracken’s account of her work, the public hearing and arrest, visit http://pulsemedia.org/2011/10/17/why-i-assaulted-defense-chief-leon-panetta/.