As 13,000 people gathered at AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington, DC, this weekend, a Sunday night banquet honored outstanding student activists from campuses across the country. After a long, exciting day of travel, speakers, breakout sessions and networking, college students who are among the pro-Israel advocates who converged on Washington, DC, for AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference this week enjoyed an opportunity to celebrate their achievements at the Sunday night event.
AIPAC Leadership Development Director Jonathan Kessler hosted “Sunday Night Live,” a comedy flavored awards dinner, which featured a multimedia performance and a speech from Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, interspersed with AIPAC’s traditional awards given to students who display exceptional advocacy on campus.
“Speeches don’t engage people,” Kessler told the crowd. “People engage people, actions engage people, accomplishments engage people, passion engages people.
“We say, creative, energetic, dynamic people engage people and we’ve got a whole lot of people like that in this house tonight,” he continued.
Accompanied by live performances from Israeli dancers, DJs and performing artists, Kessler showcased AIPAC’s best and most successful advocates.
Recipients of the Activists of the Year Award included students from the University of Oregon, Colorado Christian University, University of Pennsylvania, University of South Florida and New York University.
Sophomore Talia Davis is the campus liaison for QuackPAC at the University of Oregon. Speaking on behalf of her cadre, she applauded her organization for passing the first student senate resolution nationwide condemning a nuclear Iran. By creating relationships with individual members of the student senate, Davis and her cadre will lead her school in engaging in further international relations.
“Although Israel activism shouldn’t exist around winning an award, for my cadre it has definitely motivated us to continue to improve our student body relations,” said Davis.
New York University junior and TorchPAC member Mia Applebaum, another Activists of the Year award recipient, said, “I think it really encapsulates everything that my cadre and my pro-Israel organization have done this year. I think that this is very telling of the direction of what we’ve done and we unequivocally deserve this in the most humble way.”
University of South Florida students were also recognized as Activists of the Year. “I think our biggest accomplishment this year was sending our entire cadre to the summer and winter Saban,” said senior and student body vice president George Papadeas, referring to AIPAC’s twice-yearly intensive training seminar for students from across the country. “Hard work pays off and it really takes great leadership to lead a great group. It’s really enriching and humbling to be here.”
The coveted Duke Rudman Annual Award was given to the cadre at the University of Southern California.
“My cadre has worked so hard for this,” said junior Sarah Sax, who serves as her school’s AIPAC campus liaison. “I am so proud of their enthusiasm and dedication and it is remarkable that we can build relationships on campus and with our senators.”
Members of ‘Rallyt’ received the Advocates of the Year Award for creating the AIPAC NGauge network. The organization strives to connect individuals and create a “new online political empowerment platform that will help facilitate [student] activism on and from the campus,” said Kessler.
Immediately following the awards dinner, all 2,000 students attending the 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference received a password to access this innovative network and advocacy tool, which they were told would facilitate and encourage Israel activism for the 21st century.