On February 16th, the CU-Boulder student body and Boulder community residents gathered in Macky Auditorium to see the well-known Edward Snowden take the stage—over Google Hangouts. Moderated by Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, best-selling author, and previous senior national affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal. How did CU-Boulder get so much talent in one (virtual) conversation? The Distinguished Speakers Board at CU organized the event.
The auditorium was full of excited people—so full, in fact, that it was a sold-out event. There were reporters and journalists present, for CU and local news stations, in the front rows and on the balconies. We all waited in anticipation as Ron Suskind gave a background speech on himself and Snowden’s whereabouts. When the webcam turned on to reveal Snowden’s face, broadcasted straight from Moscow, Russia, the crowd applauded loudly. There was much applause for Snowden, and a general sense of pride and praise from the audience all throughout the discussion, regardless of what pre-conceived notions we had about the man beforehand. Somehow seeing his face on a large screen seemed intimate and special—we were all glad to have had this opportunity.
For anyone who didn’t know, Snowden has been a subject of international controversy since he released top secret NSA and CIA information in 2013 (I encourage you all to watch the documentary made about what transpired: “Citizen Four”). Since then, people have had mixed opinions on the traitor/hero/whistleblower. Personally, all of my opinions changed after I heard him speak to us over webcam.
“You should decide for yourself what kind of world you want to live in”; “I did not set out to change American society, I set out to let the public have the information that they always should have”; and, “The First Amendment is first for a reason. If government is hiding from the press, it is them who are in the wrong”—these were all among my favorite quotes from Snowden.
Snowden explained that the choice he made was not the easy choice, but the right one. Once he found out the NSA and CIA were listening to civilian phone calls and saving our pictures, he knew he had to do something, even though he would lose his comfortable lifestyle to tell the American people the truth the government was hiding.
“Doing nothing at the price of nothing would be so much worse than doing nothing at the price of everything” he said.