19-year-old political science major from Manhattan Beach, Celine Bookin has done the unthinkable, unimaginable, inconceivable. Gathering fellow Berkeley classmates, Bookin founded the Berkeley Conservative Society. Not only that, she invited the Cal Democrats to a series of debates ranging from healthcare, economic policies, and climate change.
The scene was very un-Berkeley-eqsue: no security guards or police officers in sight, no protest, no fights. A simple, civil political debate with both parties discussing authentically. Bookin had achieved her goal.
I wanted to revitalize the focus around decency and political discourse. I felt on campus … there’s a high level of vitriol just from a lack of dialogue.
Having been a member of the Berkeley College Republicans (BCR) club, Bookin was revolted by the violent protests that took place after right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to Berkeley. A strong proponent of free speech, she wasn’t disgruntled by his attendance, rather the response from Berkeley residents and students. This instigated her to start her own club.
BCR is more focused on bringing in speakers and advocating for the Trump administration — which is totally fine. I honestly think that the more political clubs on campus, the better.
For her new club’s debates, Bookin enlisted senior Caiden Nason from Victorville, a political science major and a Cal Democrat. Both disagreed on almost every political issue, but they shared a deep fervor for free speech. They also believed that political tension at Berkeley was surging and open and free discourse was becoming rarer and rarer.
At a debate between the Republican and Democratic clubs, the two sides weren’t just respectful to each other, they even found common ground. While the conservatives conceded on policies for climate change, liberals acknowledged that corn subsidies should be put to an end. Debating those with different views, Bookin explained that this helped her refine her own thinking. This experience has confirmed her belief that the path forward for fellow Republicans and for the nation is to “seek out friends and colleagues who may have different viewpoints and engage in conversation with them.” Nason even credited her with easing tension on campus and helping people with different views make connections.
Living in India where Tom and Jerry and political debates can’t be distinguished, Bookin has opened a new of thinking for me.
In other words, when my parents told me I could accomplish anything, I didn’t truly understand what that meant until now. I found it incredible that her simple ideology, persistent drive, and ambitious goal provoked her into changing the political game on a rather impulsive and daring campus. A campus known for its political and social freedom, it can get difficult to wield the power that is placed in your hands. There is a thin line between fighting for what you believe in and fighting for the heck of it. But Bookin maturely took control of the situation and achieved something even the Chancellor Carrol Christ struggled to manage. Only a year older than me, she had already made an impact on UC Berkeley and the world.
I am eager to propagate a similar change in India. Comment below ideas on how I can achieve this.