During the 2008 presidential campaign I was really confused about why the Republican party took so much joy in tearing down Obama's experience as a community organizer. It was only this summer that I found out.

My boss at my internship in New York recommended I read this book by Saul Alinsky called "Rules for Radicals" and it really taught me something. It was published back in 1971—and a lot of it was written at the tail end of the 1960s. The author's point was basically this: the '60s were great, but get over it. Liberals need to get smart in how they fight for change, or else liberalism is going to be a big dud in the future.

His idea was that the anti-war movement alienated too many people, which allowed the establishment to write it off as a bunch of hippie kids doing their thing. If there was going to have been any real change in America, its agents would have had to understand how the status quo worked and where the pressure points were.

That's community organizing. Organizing people into pincer strikes against the status quo. That's pretty scary stuff to the conservative establishment.

Let's pause for a moment before I go on. Who in politics do I want to choke? Who's the villain? If Sam Vitello makes a movie, who is standing in a dark alleyway with half his face in the shadows, laughing maniacally?

The answer: Corporate bosses (management).

Big business has loads of power. Unfortunately, the ends they use it for suck. Who ever heard of a company doing something selfless for the common good? They don't. And by selfless I don't mean buying AIDS medicine for a million suffering Ugandans. I mean paying workers a living wage, not polluting America's rivers and lakes, or saying, "Sorry Mr. Government Man, but we're not going to make napalm for you anymore."

OK, so back to Alinsky. He realized that, while big business may not have a conscience, the average stockholder does. What's that? Stockholders can tell companies what to do? How interesting.

The way it works is that if you own a stock in, say, General Electric, you have a vote to decide what General Electric does. If you own two stocks, you have two votes. If you own three stocks... you get the idea. The problem is that most people sign over their voting rights, called "proxies," to the corporate management for them to play with (remember, they're the bad guys).

But what if stockholders didn't sign over these rights? Alinsky realized that if enough moral stockholders of company X were to sign their proxies over to, say, an environmental group, company X would suddenly have a pretty damn good environmental record. The environmental group wouldn't even need a majority of the proxies since corporate decisions aren't always unanimous. They would just have to have a good chunk.

Reading about proxies got me thinking. I have a few stocks. I should donate all my proxies to some good group! My parents have a bunch more stocks than I do. They should donate their proxies too!

Then I realized something: Bowdoin College has stocks too. I don't know how many stocks $700,000,000 (our endowment) buys, but it's probably a few more than my or your family has.

And what about Colby and Bates? They have endowments too. What if representatives of our three schools got together and decided where to give our proxies? That would be a heck of a lot of votes on corporate decisions. We could do some substantial good.

Public ownership of corporations is a pressure point in the conservative status quo. If we at Bowdoin are as liberal as we claim to be, we have an obligation to put our proxies to use. There is no such thing as inaction in the fight for change. If you're not actively fighting for it, you're implicitly endorsing the status quo through inaction. If we don't act then we fall into the generalization Alinsky made of the liberal youth back in 1971—kids who talk tough but don't succeed in driving change. That was our parents' generation. Let's do something new.