Celebrities: They really are just like us

I met Ben and Jerry, and the progressive businessmen were wonderfully down-to-earth

Annalisa Waddick, Opinions Editor

This past week, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream visited Washington and Lee University for an event put on by Contact Committee termed “An Evening with Ben and Jerry’s.” Due to my tragically scheduled jazz band rehearsal, I was unable to attend the event, and I wiped away tears thinking of the missed opportunity to meet my progressive ice-cream icons.
Then a series of miraculous events happened.
First, Compost Crew was contacted to pick up the compost from the Ben and Jerry’s event, as free ice cream was given out after the duo spoke.
Second, I was one of the people working on the night of the event, which meant that I rolled up to University Chapel in my dirty, smelly compost clothes, scale in hand.
Third, both Ben and Jerry gave me hugs!
Now, there’s a few things that happened in between event two and three. My incredible compost partner (shoutout Jo!) and I wandered over to the Chapel nearly two hours after the event had begun, fully expecting the area to be deserted. Instead, we were shocked to find a full crowd of people savoring ice cream, laughing, and chatting it up with B & J, who had a long queue of people lined up to meet them.
Before we could even begin our earth-saving duties, the coordinator of the event appeared and offered us the opportunity to meet Ben and Jerry as a show of appreciation for our last-minute pickup. Joanne and I looked at each other, eyes wide, and before we knew it we were marching towards the front of the line, headed toward two unassuming men who did not look like the founders of a billion dollar business.
The coordinator of the event introduced us, and suddenly Ben was pumping his fist in the air and cheering “compost!,”asking if we wanted a hug, as if we didn’t look and smell like the creatures from the black lagoon, and inquiring what process we use to compost (the answer: an industrial composting unit that lives out at the university garden). Meeting Jerry was similar – he also cheered at the mention of compost, offered a hug, and was interested in the way our compost system works at Washington and Lee.
The rest of the conversation passed in a blur, and after thanking the men for revolutionizing the vegan ice cream game (as Ben and Jerry’s was the first vegan ice cream I ever ate that was deliciously, wonderfully indecipherable from regular ice cream), Joanne and I went on our merry way to continue along with our job.

Now, I haven’t met very many people in my life who have their own Wikipedia page, and I’ve had personal conversations with even fewer. (If you’re curious, the total list includes country artists Kelsea Ballerini and Dan and Shay, musical composers Frank Ticheli and John Mackey, and now Ben and Jerry.) But what made this specific celebrity encounter so cool was the fact that Ben and Jerry are committed to progressive values and social change in the way that I am, both on the smaller level of composting and on the larger level of supporting the fight for racial justice, climate justice, and the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.
If you want to learn about their progressive beliefs and history, a simple Google search will provide lots of information, but highlights include ice creams renamed in support of marriage equality and racial justice, a call for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act, and a commitment to paying all workers a living wage by 2030, according to an article by CNN Business.
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t address the fact that as a progressive environmentalist, I believe the science that shows all animal agriculture has a detrimental effect on our environment and plays a huge part in global carbon emissions. The dairy industry is a part of this, and I do not support it. I only buy dairy-free Ben and Jerry’s, made from almond milk, and I dream of a world where someday all the company’s ice cream is made from plant-based sources instead of milk.
However, I also consider myself realistic, and I know that Americans are not as ready as I am to give up their beloved dairy. Because of this, I would rather that ice cream companies operate in the way Ben and Jerry’s does – practicing regenerative farming, partnering with businesses driven by social mission, and working with organizations like Fairtrade International. It’s not perfect, but it’s a step – and a scoop – in the right direction, and I was happy to meet the down-to-earth men behind the movement.