Weinberg alumnus Will Butler talks civic engagement

    Photo by Maggie Gorman / North by Northwestern

    Will Butler (WCAS ’05), of Arcade Fire, spoke to students on civic engagement in Leverone Hall Tuesday night. The multi-instrumentalist focused on his work with Partners in Health, but spent the first half of the talk describing his work with the band, starting from his time as a Poetry and Slavic Language double-major in the Weinberg college of Arts & Sciences.

    “My job is engaging the world,” he said.

    Butler was introduced by Dan Lewis, the Director of the Center for Civic Engagement.  Lewis said that attending college is about learning “how the world works, but also how to work the world.”

    The presentation marks the beginning of the Center for Civic Engagement’s Civically Engaged Young Alumni Week, which runs until Thursday. Alumni from the McCormick School of Engineering and the School of Education & Social Policy will speak on faculty-moderated panels on Wednesday. Speakers from the Bienen School of Music, the School of Communication, the Medill School of Journalism, and Weinberg  will speak on Thursday.

    Arcade Fire has worked with Partners in Health since 2006, donating proceeds from album and ticket sales. The band donated $1.00, £1.00, or €1.00 of every ticket sold on its North American and European tour to the organization. Butler explained that this was done by adding a dollar to each ticket. He said that most fans were willing to pay the extra fee.

    “The consumer doesn’t really notice it with Ticketmaster,” Butler joked.

    The 28-year-old musician also mentioned the need for different kinds of aid to Haiti, the main recipient of Arcade Fire’s work.

    “There are a lot of inefficient ways to help Haiti,” Butler said.

    So much food has been sent to the nation that Haitian farmers now struggle to make ends meet, Butler said.  He also stressed the need for infrastructure and manufacturing aid in Haiti.

    “[We’re] trying to do basic things that aren’t charity,”  he said.

    Butler was casual in front of the large crowd.

    “Shouldn’t you be voting?” he asked. “Just kidding. Voting’s for nerds.”

    But when the jokes were over, Butler ended with sober advice for students looking to get involved.

    “Get the economic side to make sense, then give it the moral twist.”

    Editor’s note: Center for Student Involvement has been corrected to Center for Civic Engagement. Thanks to commenter Samantha for pointing out the error.


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