“Take Back Commencement Rally” at SU Against Banks!

Students at Syracuse University held a chanting, pot-banging, marching “Take Back Commencement Rally” on April 16 to oppose the school administration's choice of the CEO of JP Morgan Chase as their graduation speaker. The bank is the second largest in the U.S. and one of the oldest in the world. Here is my talk at the rally. For more on this struggle see also:


Thank you for asking me to speak at this important rally—you are doing such great organizing! I want to begin by reading a poem I wrote for the seniors, to honor your struggle against having the CEO of the second largest bank in the U.S. selected as commencement speaker for your class of 2010:

Whose voice comes through me now?
For years I just repeated the words.
Well, that’s how you learn as a child,
the palaver problem. After a while
as I moved my mouth I heard what
I was saying. Some of my students
are saying they don’t want to listen
to a CEO at their graduation, they
reject a banking concept of education,
they aren’t blank accounts to deposit
ideas or money into, they want to hear
someone they don’t owe money to,
not JPMorgan Chase rich, richer, richest
on interest they’ll pay for fifteen years,
the $27,455 loans on average, the rage
they are commencing with, and what
jobs? Where will they live? Their cars?
The street? They say predator and thief,
their work stolen before they pass Go,
monopoly capital in control of the board.
This is the future we’ve been told, hoard,
and crush the other. But there is the sudden
sitting at our desks when we see our hands
digitally click like a marionette’s sticks,
raising the questions: And whose work done?
What do we want from our opposable thumbs?
Not games, and not to build thick bank vault
walls, set inside our work’s locked-up worth.
Now these young hands up, demanding halt.


By rejecting this CEO as your speaker, you have rejected the “banking theory of education” first described by Paulo Freire, the great Brazilian educator and socialist—

Instead you are leading in the intellectual and political discussion of the fate of education in the U.S. by raising a fundamental question posed by the invitation to Dimon—

In what ways are corporate interests and the goal of profit-making determining the process of education now? How is the profit-making of capitalism actually closing down paths of questioning and rejecting attempts to look at new ways of shaping a more just future?

And you are also showing that the lives and futures of students are directly connected to the lives of millions of working people—in the U.S. and globally—

The comments on your petition make that connection—

The heartrending and passionate statements by people citing suicides, homelessness and family suffering that resulted from bank foreclosures, while students graduate with crushing debt, into an economy that has been devastated by bank speculation—all of these practices designed to wring profit in any way out of the hard-earned income of working people—

In 2005 JP Morgan admitted that in its earlier form it had profited from the heinous U.S. slave trade—that it had actually held as property 1250 enslaved people. Lawyers working on a class action suit against Morgan & similarly implicated U.S. banks and corporations estimate that their total profits from the slave trade would amount to over $2 trillion today.

The year Dimon became CEO at JP Morgan the bank announced a $5 million scholarship fund as compensation—one example Dimon gives for it being a “good bank”—

But that scholarship was mere public relations—a cover-up for the actual role of the banking system—just as Dimon’s commencement speech will be another pr effort—

Predecessors banks of JP Morgan financed chattel slavery—and claimed the ownerships of thousands of human beings, whose labor and lives were being brutally exploited—

Then with the development of industrial capital—Morgan bankrolled the railroads & steel mills and other industries where millions of workers suffered and died in poverty in wage slavery—using people to make products and compensating workers for only a fraction of the value of what those workers produced—with the industrial owners living more lavishly than ancient kings off the profits—

And now JP Morgan and other banks are financing the wars of capital exploitation the U.S. is waging worldwide—where more people are suffering and dying—to keep the profit system in place—where decisions are made by a ruling class handful to try to determine the destiny of the vast laboring majority of humanity—

Those who fought to abolish slavery in the U.S.—abolitionists—were shouted down and attacked and told slavery was unchangeable—but slavery was ended. Human beings ended slavery through cataclysmic struggle.

Now bankers, politicians, the media, and, yes, sometimes, teachers! tell you that capitalism as an economic system will and should never end—

But your organizing represents the hope that we can build a future not constructed on profit-making—on wage-slavery—on the theft by the few of the labor made by the hands of the many—Your organizing represents the hope that instead we will build on a new foundation where those who do the work of the world decide and create a system that gives us
“bread and roses” for all—food, homes, jobs, health care, and friends, poetry and dancing!

How do we get there? We keep organizing!

May 1st Rally in Union Square, New York City, for jobs and all rights for immigrants!

Bank Out People Not Banks!

Stop the wars on the rest of the world—not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but the threatened war against Iran—and the increasing U.S. military operations in many nations in Africa—
Troops Out Now Coalition!

Stop the war at home! Stop all foreclosures!
Stop attacks on women’s reproductive rights and LGBT lives!

Connect nationwide to students and workers joining together to fight the economic crisis—
Stop the budget cuts! Cancel all student debt! A job is a right!
Alabama: http://www.workers.org/2010/us/alabama_bus_drivers_0318/index.html
Arizona: http://www.workers.org/2009/us/arizona_0212/index.html
California: http://www.workers.org/2010/us/berkeley_0422/
Georgia: http://www.workers.org/2010/us/sodexo_0422/index.html

Let’s put our hands up saying halt—but let’s do it for real now, hands up, say:
Stop, stop, stop the profit war on people!!

SU Students Protest Commencement Speaker

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010

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