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GIV Day is here!

August 26, 2011

Here’s what I have to say:

In the last few days, you have heard from a variety of people including President Riggs, Professor Buzz Meyers, and Laura Baldasarre.  They have offered you words of inspiration on how to make the best of your Gettysburg experience, encouraged you to “do great work” and they have challenged you to become “Gettysburg great.”  I guess it’s supposed to be my turn now, but there’s only one thing I can offer you this morning: silence.

Slightly awkward, isn’t it?  Let me say a few words about the importance of silence.

Silence is significant, first, because it gives us a chance to reflect.  It’s important for us to understand where we come from and how our experiences have influenced our thoughts.  The more we understand ourselves, the better we are able to understand other people and the world around us.  We need to reflect on the social issues in our community, why things are the way they are, and how we contribute to or are victimized by the various “isms.”  Are there preconceptions about us because of our skin color?  What are the roles we have to play because of our gender?  How do these biases play out in society?  What privileges do certain groups have?

I’m offering you silence this morning, also, because I want to hear from you.  I may be this year’s GIV Day coordinator, but my title doesn’t mean much.  I work at the Center for Public Service not because I believe I have solutions to the issues of our society, but because I want to learn and become aware of them.  After all, I don’t know how to feed the hungry, to change the cycle of poverty, to end racism.  But maybe your experiences have led you to understand and view the world in a different way than mine have.  I want to learn from those experiences; I want to hear your thoughts.  Our combined experiences and joint efforts can better prepare us to answer the questions facing our community, and together, perhaps we can act for social change.  But not just any kind of action, informed and compassionate action that leads us to sustainable solutions for problems of societal inequality.

During your college career, between your coursework and extracurricular activities, you will find very few silent moments.  But when you do, I hope you will embrace them, for all their awkwardness.  I hope you reflect on your experiences and I hope you take a minute to listen to the thoughts and ideas of other people.

There will be times during college and throughout life when you will be asked to stand beside someone and support them, but there will be times when you will be asked to lead.  This morning I ask that you stand beside me and be open to explore the Gettysburg community, but at the same time be a leader, ready to act.  This morning, my hope is for you to learn a little bit about your home for the next few years and the struggles the people here are facing.  I hope you begin to recognize your responsibility as a member of this community to act against the social injustice you see.  I hope you feel connected to this place and that you are inspired to get involved.  Above all, I hope you begin to think critically about the issues around us and how to advocate for and engage in social change.

Cam

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