Berkeley is the Madison of the West.
Or so said Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as he attempted to draw UW-Madison students' attention to the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday night at the Memorial Union Terrace.
The former University of California-Berkeley quarterback was joined by actress Emmanuelle Chriqui, Congolese teammate Andy Mulumba, and others to raise awareness and to pressure technology companies not to buy minerals used in computers and other consumer electronics from Congo.
Thousands of students turned out for the event, primarily sponsored by the Conflict-Free Campus Initiative.
Rodgers joined students in the UW tradition "Jump Around," quickly defused students' speculation about a relationship with Chriqui and took several digs at Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola, who is accused of verbally abusing members of the UW Marching Band before Sunday's Packers-Lions game at Lambeau Field. But Rodgers was quick to point out that he didn't come to Madison on Monday night to talk football.
Instead, Rodgers took a more personal route, sharing thoughts about his life outside of football from shortly after the Packers' Super Bowl win in 2011.
"We just accomplished the most amazing goal in football. But I’m sitting here with this semi-empty feeling because I had just accomplished everything I wanted to do when I was a kid. I kind of had this moment where I said to myself, 'Is this it? Is there more to life than this?' And the answer was resoundingly yes," he said.
After learning about the conflict in Congo from Chriqui, Rodgers decided to get involved in the effort to pressure consumer electronics manufacturers from using minerals from the warring nation.
“That was kind of my 'enough' moment. A device that I take everywhere with me. It’s my lifeline to my friends, to my Candy Crush, to my Twitter account during the offseason. This is the lifeblood of these warlords who are doing some incredible atrocities half a world away,” he said, asking students to help make UW-Madison the first conflict-free school in the Big Ten conference.
Last spring, the UW-Madison student council passed a resolution calling for university officials to avoid technology purchases that include minerals mined in places like Congo. At the time, at least 14 other universities nationally had passed similar measures.
“You can have an impact in a tangible way. Something that you touch every single day, that’s your lifeline. … We can say to those tech companies and those people, 'We want to live in a world where our electronics do not fund rape and war,'” Rodgers said.
Chriqui said she and Rodgers plan to visit Congo together after the football season.