Kelley O’Brien is a person of many talents and passions. She regularly performs slam poetry, has held various leadership positions in WSU’s GLBTA organization, bartends at Rico’s Pub, helped organize Occupy the Palouse and is also involved with the It Starts NOW Campaign, an anti-bullying movement.
Despite all of this, O’Brien, a senior women’s studies major, was surprised when she heard students nominated her as an influential person on campus. She said the thought of people viewing her as a role model is weird.
“I was a really shy kid before I came here,” she said. “And I still am kind of shy. But I am a lot more confident dealing with people, and it’s really strange realizing how much I can do, I guess. … I feel capable.”
O’Brien said her participation with campus groups has also made her more politically aware, which led to her involvement in organizing Occupy the Palouse, a local offshoot of Occupy Wall Street.
Soon after she and other activists started an Occupy the Palouse Facebook group, Phil Tignino, a former coordinator of a local chapter of Youth for Western Civilization (a group that promotes the revival and survival of Western culture) posted “get a job, hippies” on their wall. When O’Brien heard about it, she said she was “tickled.”
“I was working two jobs at the time and sleeping during the day,” she said. “Critics don’t realize how hard you have to work to be a hippie. Or politically involved. Most activists I know work a full-time job, or more than one, on top of school, on top of giving a damn about what’s going on in the world and working to change it.”