ASU student excels in honors classes while lobbying for motorcyclists' rights

By

Nicole Greason

John Dreyfus is a father, motorcyclist, lobbyist and a student in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

Most students enter ASU and the honors college the fall semester after their graduation from high school. Fewer, known as upper-division students, come to the university after time spent in a community college. Many upper-division students are in their 20s. Some are older, like Dreyfus, who is 56 and has adult kids and 13 grandchildren.

He began his academic career at Phoenix College, where he earned a 3.95 grade-point average. 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 ASU 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 said. 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 Gov. Evan Mecham. Afterward, he continued his activism and political involvement.

He also took up motorcycle riding after his children were grown.

“I had ridden motorcycles when I was younger, but I stopped when I had kids,” said Dreyfus, who bought a motorcycle and started riding again in 2010.

He befriended fellow motorcyclists and eventually joined a club. Due to his past political activism, members of the 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 said.

He now advocates for the rights of motorcyclists on behalf of the confederation, a position he has held since 2012. 

He helped re-introduce a bill in 2013, Senate Bill 1086, part of which pertained to peace officer training and motorcycle profiling. It had been introduced before but had 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 he said 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.

Still, Dreyfus said he has experienced little victories in his lobbying career.

He recalled when he represented 450 motorcyclists packed into the Arizona Capitol 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.

Dreyfus intends to pursue law school after he attains his undergraduate degree. He is currently studying pretrial detainment in Maricopa County and beyond for his honors thesis. He also continues to advocate for the rights of motorcycle riders in Arizona and maintain his GPA.  

Story by Ryan Wadding, a Barrett, The Honors College student majoring in political science.