Chosen from across the United States, “the 2022 Truman Scholars reflect our country as innovative, purposeful, patriotic problem-solvers, never shying away from a challenge,” says Terry Babcock-Lumish, executive secretary of The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Among the 58 college juniors chosen to receive the scholarship this year, in support of graduate study and future careers in public service, is Amherst’s own Gabriel Echarte ’23.
“Watching the erosion of Miami, my home city, made climate change personal,” he wrote in his Truman Scholarship application. “Climate change extends beyond the purely environmental. It calls attention to the manner in which power interacts with people, the failures of government to address the interests of the majority, and the entrenchment of power with the victors of this status quo.”
Echarte has already helped to change the status quo at Amherst as a founding member of Students for Climate Action, a group that engaged with alumni, the student body and the administration on the College’s Climate Action Plan. A political science major, he cites Professor Adam Sitze’s “Introduction to Legal Theory,” Assistant Professor Ashwin Ravikumar’s “Global Environmental Politics” and Professor Deborah Gewertz’s “Sociocultural Anthropology” as the courses that have influenced him most. He has interned with the Office of Environmental Sustainability, served as a representative in the Association of Amherst Students and led the Athletes and Allies club.
Echarte has also worked as an environmental defender research assistant in the U.S. Department of State, and as an intern in the offices of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy Division. He also took time off from college to serve as an emergency medical technician in Boston amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
From May 24 to 29, Echarte is joining in the 2022 Truman Scholars Leadership Week at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., getting to know his fellow Truman Scholars and working with them to craft policy proposals. (“It’s very nerdy,” he says, but he’s excited about it.) Next year, after graduating from Amherst, he will participate in the Truman foundation’s 10-week Summer Institute; he hopes he will be able to spend it working in the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) of the Department of Justice.
After that, Echarte would ideally like to enroll at the University of California, Berkeley, where he can earn both a J.D. and a master’s degree in their Energy and Resources Group. “The J.D. will give me the skill to fight, and the M.A. helps me discern which fights to prioritize,” he wrote. “These combined degrees ensure I am best prepared for a career of environmental advocacy through law.”
In the longer term, Echarte foresees bringing his legal skills back to the ENRD and “living up to my ideal of the ‘peaceful warrior.’” That, he explained in his Truman application, is what his grandmother would call someone who does battle through the law.