Her passion for activism goes back to her childhood in Detroit, Michigan. There she read about the White Rose group, a cell of Catholic Germans who sacrificed their lives to resist Nazi persecution of Jews. Komisaruk says she was overwhelmed, both by the enormity of Nazi evil and by the heroism of a few people. “It was important to me to know that not everybody was wrong, that there were some people who did the right thing even when everybody else was failing to stop the train,” she says.
Thoughts of the White Rose group’s heroism stuck with Komisaruk, reminding her of the importance, and self-sacrifice, of acting in the face of evil. While at Reed she read Marx and Engels, Hume and Kant. “It was really interesting, but I never thought of it as applying to me personally,” she recalls. She worked hard at Reed, studied a lot, and emerged with a classics degree but little idea of where to go next.
She weighed the options: law school would be too boring, she figured, and she wasn’t qualified for medical school. “I wanted a meal ticket,” she said. Business school seemed like a reasonable choice, so she enrolled in the M.B.A. program at the University of California–Berkeley.
It didn’t take her long to recoil. The theoretical knowledge she gained at Reed suddenly clicked into place. These abstract values stood in stark opposition to what Komisaruk was learning in business school. “We started doing all these case studies about things that were really immoral — clear-cutting forests, selling baby formula to people in the third world,” she says, “and I realized that the entire corporate structure works against any notion of social responsibility.”
Walking down Telegraph Avenue in June 1982, Komisaruk
noticed a flyer advertising a protest of the Livermore nuclear weapons
research facility. Komisaruk’s enthusiasm was tempered a little
by the requirement that protestors attend a non-violence training session — she
hated meetings and the “religious mumbo-jumbo” she associated
with civil disobedience. Still, she figured, the protestors would probably
organize carpools, and she