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Beau Willimon '95 on Political Engagement

October 29, 2018

During assembly on Monday, October 29, Beau Willimon '95 spoke to students about political engagement.

An award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Willimon is currently immersed in the midterm elections, and came to St. Louis to knock on doors, work phone banks and write postcards, hoping to impact the outcome of elections in the state in which he grew up.

But he said he wasn’t at Burroughs to push his own agenda with students — just to urge them to learn here, form beliefs and act on those beliefs.

Willimon reflected back on this time at Burroughs and how those years — and the issues of that time — still frame who he is and what he believes. Many issues, from environmental consciousness to the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, are decade-long issues. "The long-term consequences of what's happening now, though hard to predict, will be important to you 10, 20, 30 years from now."

He said his first real moment of political engagement came during his senior year when he and some friends invited other students to counter a neo-Nazi demonstration in Clayton. A large group, including dozens from JBS, faced off with less than two dozen neo-Nazis to say, "This is not who we are."

"We are a constantly evolving experiment, still struggling to improve, and it is your duty to make sure you are a part of this process. ... Don't take your right to vote [or act on your beliefs] for granted — don't squander it. .... Choices you make, starting now, will affect your future. Make a commitment to your future self.”

After assembly, Willimon spoke with students in a Latin class and history class.