The year was 1969 and on Trenton State’s campus, Stuart Goldstein was walking around in jeans and a T-shirt, sipping on a cup of his energy and life-blood, coffee. As if an inverted Cinderella, the clock struck noon and Goldstein slipped into a suit and became a man lobbying for young people’s rights.
During his college days, Goldstein was a mover and shaker — a guy with Jersey attitude and confidence to match. It was his collegiate time of grassroots organizing that prepared him for corporate strategy at the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, a group of several companies that match up trade data from the world’s market places and settle the money of the various financial institutions. Now retired, Goldstein shares his experiences as a spirited collegiate activist and eventual corporate communicator.
“I had two strains that were a part of me,” Goldstein said. “One was a political doer, I wanted to change the world. The other was the writer, the observer … I was very active politically on campus, that was a period of great political activity.”
His success, though, didn’t happen overnight. His achievements took years to accumulate, but the political and government related endeavors he tackled during his time at the College prepared him to be the success story he is today.
Students currently on campus at the College continue a legacy of being politically active young adults. Whether they are members of the College Democrats or College Republicans, or if they are politically knowledgeable and bravely voice their opinions to get others around them involved, some students at the College are preparing themselves for success in adulthood through political engagement.
Junior political science and international studies double major Urvashi Banerjea serves as the College Democrats’ secretary and has been seriously engaged in the world of politics since the 2008 election.
“As a student, you just have so much to gain being politically active,” Banerjea said.
Last year she was the youngest female delegate at the Democratic National Convention, she has interned at the New Jersey State Committee, and this past semester she interned in Congress for Rep. Bill Pascrell (D- N.J.) in D.C.
Though Banerjea herself is politically engaged, she sees room for improvement among students at the College.
“TCNJ isn’t apathetic toward politics, but there definitely could be a higher level of political knowledge, whether Democrats or Republicans,” Banerjea said. “I think people take for granted that Trenton is literally right there and so much happens in Trenton.”
During the early ’70s when Goldstein was still a student, political activity most certainly hung heavy in the Trenton air. During his sophomore year, there were only six state colleges in New Jersey and Rutgers University received more state aid than the other schools combined. Goldstein took a trip to the capital to try to get money for the College and keep the tuition hikes in line. His tenacity led him to bring the first group of students, three of whom were from the College, to appear before the Appropriations Committee. Goldstein and the students’ perseverance won $175,000 from the Committee.
Then he and a couple other male students from surrounding schools began the Voting Age Coalition. The voting age in New Jersey was about to be lowered from 21 to 18. Goldstein’s goal was to see to it that it would be lowered.
“We would lobby all afternoon, grabbing guys in the hall,” Goldstein said. “We would literally have to grab them by their clothes.”
Goldstein’s first attempts at lowering the voting age failed, falling two votes short in the Republican caucus. So, he decided to revamp the cause, looking to new students for assistance.
“We needed help, so I asked two sororities on campus to come to the legislature to help us,” Goldstein said. “And, believe it or not, it was more sexist then than it is today. Having 25 young women running around the state assembly grabbing people got a lot of attention.”
The strategy not only got a lot of attention; it got the needed votes.
Today, new methods of communication have opened doors for political knowledge.
“I think television ads and social media are the best means to educate individuals about political issues,” said sophomore political science major Zach Myshkoff.
Myshkoff, a member of the College Republicans, explained that many current college students don’t spend time studying politics, thus their lack of knowledge needs to be remedied by using already popular entertainment outlets as ways to educate the masses.
Laura Vasile, a junior political science major, explained that TV can be politically informative, but some go-to shows college students watch for information fail to give appropriate political insight.
“I love Stephen Colbert, but I don’t think he should be a news source,” Vasile said. “I think you should know what he’s actually talking about, then you can go watch him and understand the humor.”
Vasile, self-proclaimed libertarian after reading Ayn Rand’s classic novel “Atlas Shrugged,” is not a member of a political club on campus; however, she spends time educating herself on important governmental issues. Vasile cited the wars the United States is involved in, as an issue that is close to her.
“I don’t like people on an individual level telling each other what to do. So that is compared to America telling other countries what to do,” Vasile said, explaining her position against U.S. involvement in war.
Goldstein explained that political involvement at the College during the late ’60s and early ’70s prepared him for a successful professional life. Being engaged with issues beyond the collegiate bubble and having the temerity to make a change and voice opinions gave him a leg-up once he graduated.
“I think your career success has three components,” Goldstein said. “One third is talent … Second is luck, serendipity, being in the right place at the right time. And the third part is perseverance.”