AUSTIN (KXAN) - Starting early, in the first few weeks of class, there is always a battle for students' attention at the University of Texas. Walk the West Mall, and you will find a fight between booths and tables for clubs, fundraisers and people like Mukund Rathi.
"If you want to do something to make sure the Syrian crisis is solved, come talk to us,” he stated loudly as a group of young women rushed by on their way to class.
The computer science sophomore’s group – the International Socialist Organization – advocates justice and social change - even for causes across the world. Tuesday’s topic was chemical warfare in Syria.
"What do you think about Syria, man?” Rathi asked a student perusing the row of pamphlets on his table. “Let's talk about it. We can do something."
About a possible U.S. missile attack against that country. Many UT students have lived through both wars in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Some tell Rathi a war with Syria will happen, too.
“At this point, it's a done deal,” one man said about the possible attack.
Rathi disagreed but later said that student was not the worst of those unwilling to hear him out.
"Basically (another man) just walked by and said 'No, I want to go to war,' then continued walking,” he recalled.
Most do just walk by. But in the two weeks since class started, Rathi said plenty have stopped.
"You can probably tell me about it,” one student said, as he pulled headphones out of his ears to hear about the latest idea for a diplomatic solution in Syria. “I don't know much about it.”
Rathi was ready with his response.
"(Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad) gives up his chemical weapons,” he offered. “U.N. inspectors go into the country and make sure all of the weapons have been given up."
The conversation came just a few hours before President Barack Obama was to address the nation about Syrai's use of chemical weapons against its people. A new NBC News poll, meanwhile, shows that 6 in 10 Americans oppose a military strike against Syria.
After a few minutes with the student, Rathi shook his hand and thanked him for his time. Like those manning the tables all around him, he knows the importance of grabbing attention here at UT.
Shouting "This is the war of our generation,” he hopes eventually he will do the same when it comes to our nation and its leaders.
"We have an important role to play in social change and political issues,” he said. “We should do it right now when we have the opportunity."
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