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Westheimer Peace Symposium Discusses Issues at Home

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, Wilmington College hosted its annual Westheimer Peace Symposium. For most students, it was a day off to catch up on homework and sleep, but for our new freshman and a few upperclassmen, it was a day of eye-opening experiences and learning.

This year’s topic, chosen by the Westheimer Peace Symposium Committee (composed by Tanya Maus, Elizabeth Haines, Michael Snarr, and Wendy Grab), was the opioid epidemic currently sweeping the United States.

First, opioids are usually a prescribed drug from a doctor for the treatment of moderate-to-severe pain. The most common opioids involved in drug overdoses are Methadone, Oxycodone (OxyContin), and Hydrocodone (Vicodin). Opioid addictions can affect anyone, from rich to poor, across all races or creeds.

On average, 115 people in the United States die from opioid related overdoses a day, according to the Center for Disease Control. Many brave and wonderful people and organizations are finally tackling this large issue within the United States that affects so many people today. The students at Wilmington College were lucky to hear people speak out about the issue; people who are passionate enough and willing to come and tell their personal stories and experiences with opioids.

All the speakers that came to Wilmington College are professionals in their respective fields; however, they understood their audience and substituted professional terminology for more colloquial jargon. This did not hinder the guest speakers from sharing incredible ideas and wisdom to the Wilmington community.

During the first keynote speaker, Ekow Yankah, Professor of Law at Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, brought us to the attention of many laws and Supreme Court rulings that allow police officers an unorthodox amount of power in dealings with criminals. He later connected these court rulings in favor of police officers to the current drug epidemic plaguing the streets.

After the opening presentation, small panels were scheduled throughout the day. For the first panel, labeled “The Science of Opioid Addiction,” Michael Newman, Kristen Parr, Chris Tuell, and Chris Wyatt spoke of the complicated medical history and science behind why 21-29% of opiod users become addicted.

During the second panel, labeled “Addressing the Crisis through Art and Activism,” Elizabeth Hopkins, Jes McMillan, and Kev O’Donell spoke about the issues facing the public, bringing up the proposed bill of Issue 1, which rewrites a lot of the current laws regarding drug offenders in the state of Ohio.

The entire day was dedicated to the student body and community to learn about the opioid problem majority of America, but it also allows the students and faculty members alike to come forward with their own stories and share their experiences with everyone. Much of it was heartbreaking, yet it was also inspiring. I think we all learned how to have more hope, stand up for what we believe in, and fight against those who say nothing will ever change. Yes, change is slow to be accepted, but when we see the light, we see that there is a better way, an easier way, where we can help those in need and help ourselves.

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