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John Dreyfus is a father, motorcyclist, lobbyist, and honors student.
Most students enter Barrett Honors College the fall semester after their graduation from high school. Fewer, known as upper division students, come to Barrett after time spent in a community college. Many upper division students are in the 20s. Some are older, like Dreyfus, who has adult kids of his own and 13 grandchildren.
At 56, he began his academic career at Phoenix College, where he earned a 3.95 GPA. He transferred into ASU to study philosophy (morality, politics and law) and political science. He wanted the academic challenge of honors classes so he applied to Barrett, and was accepted.
His route to Arizona State University and the honors college was long and filled with obstacles.
“When I was young, I graduated high school at 17, and my mother had kicked me out at the beginning of my senior year,” Dreyfus said. Being under the age of 18, he required his parents’ permission to apply to college. His father would not grant permission because he wanted Dreyfus to work in the family machine shop.
“I ended up not going to college when I was young. I had a life, I raised my kids and I became disabled,” he states. With his disability, he was unable to do many of the things he could do before. However, despite the years that had passed and his physical limitations, he decided he would attend college because he was still able to learn.
“I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it ever since,” he said.
One of the consistencies in Dreyfus’ life is his political activism. When he first moved to Arizona in the 1980s, he hit the ground running, working on one of Arizona’s most significant political events: the recall and subsequent impeachment of Arizona Governor Evan Mecham. Afterward, he continued his passion for politics and activism.
He is a lobbyist, advocating for the rights of motorcyclists on behalf of the Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, a position he has held since 2012. He became involved in motorcyclist rights out of a love for riding.
“I had ridden motorcycles when I was younger, but I stopped when I had kids,” said Dreyfus, who bought a motorcycle and decided to start riding again in 2010.
Naturally, he befriended fellow motorcyclists and eventually joined a club. “I started going around to club events and began noticing motorcycle riders getting harassed,” he said.
Due to his past political activism, members of a motorcycle club asked him to represent them in meetings with motorcyclist rights organizations.
One of the groups, the Arizona Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, was looking for a lobbyist. “They asked the president of my club to ask me to be their lobbyist. And I said I would do it,” he recalled.
He began lobbying in 2012, and helped re-introduce a bill on behalf of the confederation in 2013. The bill had been introduced before, but never received a hearing in the Arizona Legislature. Dreyfus was able to get the bill to a Public Safety Committee hearing where it passed and made it to the floor of the state senate, coming up only two votes short of passing.
That defeat did not stop him. As a registered lobbyist, he got to know many legislators, some of whom became personal friends. Having the ear of legislators was beneficial to him as a motorcycling advocate. Additionally, as a motorcycle rider, he continued to witness what caused him to become an advocate in the first place.
“What pushed me to continue was seeing motorcyclists in Arizona get harassed by the police when they went to motorcycle events. I saw it firsthand, and I really didn’t like it,” Dreyfus said.
“You’ll have a big motorcycle event, and what law enforcement will do is set up ‘special enforcement zones’ and they’ll pull over anybody on a motorcycle without probable cause,” he said. Dreyfus alleged that law enforcement officers in unmarked cars sometimes waited outside of motorcycle clubhouses and pulled over anyone who left or followed riders from town to town.
The targeting boils down to “things that people in cars don’t get pulled over for, motorcyclists do,” he said. The trouble stems from legislators viewing popular internet videos of unsafe stunts being performed by riders on sports bikes on public roadways, Dreyfus said.
“That’s what gets thrown back at us. But we tell them that we don’t do that kind of stuff on the club/cruiser bikes, and we can’t control everybody on a motorbike,” Dreyfus said.
Still, Dreyfus said he has experienced little victories in his lobbying career.
He recalled when he represented 450 motorcyclists packed into the state capital for a hearing. “We got our voices heard, and we made some serious changes,” he said.
Dreyfus said he is not deterred in his work as a lobbyist and as a student. “My life has never really been easy, so I’ve always had to surmount difficulties to get anything done that I wanted to get done,” he said.
He takes inspiration from a quote in a speech by President John F. Kennedy:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
Dreyfus intends to pursue law school after he attains his undergraduate degree. He is currently studying pre-trial detainment in Maricopa County and beyond for his honors thesis. He is also continuing to advocate for the rights of motorcycle riders in Arizona, and maintain his GPA.
Story by Ryan Wadding, a Barrett Honors College student majoring in political science.