Youngest Vermont Legislator calls for activism at KSC

As a child, Kesha Ram became her school’s Student Council President, but with her self-described “versatility” and the ability to learn from politicians who came before her, she would eventually become the youngest legislator of Vermont at the age of 22.

State Representative Ram spoke about her life and political career on Wednesday, January 29, at Keene State College  during an event titled, “Creating the Beloved Community.”  The title of the event referred to the words and goals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., also known as MLK.

“I grew up in Los Angeles and I felt really involved as a young person. I read a lot of biographies about women and leaders of color particularly,” Ram shared. Along with telling her own story at the event, Ram explained before her presentation that one of her goals was to show how MLK’s legacy is still a, “living breathing entity.”

Sam Lewis/ Equinox Staff: Vermont Legislator Kesha Ram speaks at Keene State College Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

Sam Lewis/ Equinox Staff:
Vermont Legislator Kesha Ram speaks at Keene State College Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

Ram stated, “A really big part of his [MLK’s] beloved community was that it was global—And that we know how to engage with people in our own backyard, in neighboring nations and across the world. In a way that involved diplomacy and engagement and not bombs and threats of war— or the reality of war.”

The presentation, held in the Lloyd P. Young Student Center’s Mountain View Room, also featured acoustic performances from Pamela Means. Means is a musician known for her activism with songs about politics and other social justice issues. During the performance, Means paid tribute to the late musician Pete Seeger by playing a rendition of his song,“If I Had a Hammer.”

Ram expressed, in her keynote speech, that Means’ music made her think of various conflicts and leaders of the past. Ram later described her own experiences with activism, which took place during a brief hiatus from politics while she was attending the University of Vermont.

“I was protesting the Iraq War and working on environmental justice issues, so I came to the University of Vermont with this sense of indignation and just started using my voice as much as I could,” Ram shared.

As a college sophomore at the University of Vermont, Ram was invited to speak with Bernie Sanders, who was then running for Senate, and Barack Obama, who she referred to as “the rockstar senator from Illinois.”

Ram added that the future United States President discussed a need for young people to get involved with politics, which she identified with when listening to his speech.

According to Ram, during Ram’s final year at UVM, she was the student body president at the University of Vermont and entered the legislature that same year.

At age 27, Ram now serves Burlington’s Old North End, Hill Section and the University District in the Vt. House of Representatives. Ram is a member of the state’s Ways and Means Committee and also serves as the Public Engagement Specialist for Burlington Community and Economic Development Office.

“I think about how being a young woman of color and being able to serve on really important committees on a State Legislature is a real gift,” Ram stated while explaining that one quality which brought her to the legislative position was “gratefulness.”

As a young female legislator of color, Ram noted that she had to work to gain recognition. Ram said that, early on in her career, she used strategies like asking herself, “What keeps them [people] up at night?” Ram shared, “It helped me to personally enrich myself.”

Ram discussed how this “enrichment” led to the passing of her proposed bill on Tribal Recognition. Ram shared that her bill was passed by a majority vote in the Legislature, despite her own doubts.

The bill later “made it to the Governor’s desk, ending 30 years of gridlock on tribal recognition,” according to Ram, who indicated that she was only 23-years-old at the time of the bill’s passing.

Chief Officer of Diversity and Multiculturalism, Dottie Morris, a coordinator of the event, explained that she wanted students to get, “this one feeling of empowerment where voices are heard,” from this presentation.

Morris noted that the event was reminiscent of what one might have seen during the Civil Rights Movement as there was a “wonderful blend” of music and speech.

KSC senior Aaron Providence, the event’s master of ceremonies, who also works in KSC’s Offices of Multicultural Student Support, said, “We share a lot of the same opinions.” Providence, who is from Vermont, added that the musical element of performer Pamela Means was also “politically conscious.” Providence stated that presenters like Means and Ram help students to, “see passion that some people have and build on it.”

Means, said that she has used her music to show “honesty about life.” Means, who identifies as biracial and a member of the gay community, explained that she has performed this style of music because she has learned that artists are more successful when they write about what they know.

Although he followed the work of Means before the presentation, KSC student Eric DiCesare, a psychology major added that he liked Ram’s approach on issues such as mental health.

DiCesare added that he thought the event promoted the idea that, “If you’re a young person and you assert yourself, you can make a difference—accomplish what you want.”

Ram culminated the ideas of her presentation with an analogy about sequoia trees, addressing why each individual is important to a growing community.

“You will never see a sequoia alone. They can’t exist alone. The biggest, most majestic, strongest, longest living things on earth need each other. Their roots don’t go deep at all. They go out and they connect with one another and interlock. And that is how they survive. They link together in one big community … There’s so much more that we could do  when we link together and when we spread our roots out and touch each other,” Ram concluded.


Pamela Bump can be contacted at

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