an interview with Ryan Olson by Danielle Loparco Ryan Olson, 25, is an out gay activist and recent Gonzaga University graduate. As a leader, he has dedicated himself to creating a greater consciousness around social justice issues and strives to create a greater sense of community through compassion and understanding. DL: What are your motivations, vision, and what do you think we can all do to make the world a better place - especially through your filter, being a young gay activist? RO: I believe that we are all part of a community and while we have our individual rights and responsibilities to be ourselves and live our lives accordingly; we must recognize that we make up our community and acknowledge that our every action impacts the community of which we are a part. What I have learned from my own life experience is that love is the one device that is transcontinental. You can approach any situation within the world, whether it's talking to a blind man or showing a person who doesn't speak English pictures of your relatives back home. A warm smile, a kind gesture, a soothing voice, are things that all people, anywhere in the world can relate to and this is what I have been given in my life from my closest friends and family, to complete strangers who come along with a carefree prescription for life. DL: Do you feel those biases parallel your own experiences? RO: It is a scary thing to love, to open your heart up, and to let people see the deeper sides of you and I think this fear is one of the greatest components to our failure to show it. Going to Africa for me, is similar to my work in activism because you have to overcome your fears in order to move towards something that you believe in with all of your heart; to love. Fear is what drives the racism that through the lens of our own conceptions of Africa, we have created, deriving an us vs. them approach, rather than viewing the entire continent as relative to ourselves. Love is the only way to be able to see the commonalities between us and them and to recognize that at the end of the day, what we ALL have in common is our humanity. Love is an action and therefore, everything is reciprocal. The children in Africa didn't only learn from me, but I learned from them. Life is about doing what you want, living life to the fullest, and becoming the greatest person that you can be. Being open and totally honest both with ourselves and each other in a loving and compassionate manner is the only way 2 | October 2008 | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition Photo by Megan Meyer