An activist from a young age, Micah White’s career path led straight to revolution.
Early experiments with activism were experiences that Micah White, PhD translated into an internship offer from Adbusters—an advertising-free, reader-supported activist magazine with international readership. From there, he launched the next phase of his revolutionary career, including co-creation of the original idea for the Occupy Wall Street protests.
In advance of his campus lecture “What is a Protest?” on April 9, 2014, at 5 p.m. in Wheelock, Micah offered insight about his journey as a career activist.
CES: How did early jobs or other experiences direct your career path?
I started doing activism when I was 15 years old. Each school term I took on a new campaign against injustice. One year I refused to stand for the daily Pledge of Allegiance. Another I published an unauthorized student newspaper and suffered a five day suspension. I founded a high school atheist club in Michigan and the next year enlisted the ACLU in a civil liberties lawsuit against mandatory drug testing of student athletes. By the age of 21, I had founded one of the nation’s first student antiwar organizations after 9/11 and traveled to refugee camps in Zimbabwe and the West Bank, Palestine.
I always followed my heart rather than a conventional career path. I learned as much as possible about whatever fascinated me, I spent a lot of time in libraries exposing myself to strange ideas, and I tried to understand why each campaign succeeded or failed. I was lucky to have supportive parents because it was generally considered that I was hurting my career chances by continuing to be an activist. Now I am 32 and revolution is my dream job and my daily life.
The moral of my story is that you must follow your heart. Creative work requires a sense of inner purpose. The human spirit is capable of remarkable and seemingly impossible feats when it is inspired. Inspire yourself!
CES: What advice do you have for college students about pursuing their passion?
The most important advice I can give is to distinguish yourself by being strategic. The internet gives you the ability to reach out and communicate with anyone in the world. Identify the job of your dreams, social hack the organization and make it your goal to get your name into their founder’s head. That is what I did to get into Adbusters.
After I got back from Palestine, I was really depressed because I thought there was no job in the world that could make me happy. I wanted to make revolution and I saw that all the activism around me was ineffective. And then one day I realized that if I were to work at Adbusters then I could pull off the revolutionary events that I dreamed of. I’d been reading the magazine since I was 17 and at that time, in 2003, Adbusters was a very fresh and exciting publication. So I wrote the founder a letter describing my activist history. I also wrote to an editor at the magazine whose articles I liked and asked to forward my email to the founder as well. It worked. I was invited to Vancouver, British Columbia upon graduation. I worked my way up from campaigns intern to close collaborator of the founder and co-creator of Occupy Wall Street by making a role for myself at the organization.
In short, follow your heart always.
Micah White, PhD is the founder of Boutique Activist Consultancy. Learn more at micahmwhite.com and @LeaderlesRevolt
© 2014 Career and Employment Services, University of Puget Sound
Photo: Seth Affoumado