In the week leading up to what may be considered one of the most controversial inaugurations in United States history, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Elizabethtown College sponsored a variety of events surrounding the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. One such event was held Thursday, Jan. 19 at 7 p.m.
This event was a panel titled “What Am I Contributing to the Common Good?” and hosted three panelists: Jonathon Rudy, Peacemaker-in-Residence at the Center for Global Understanding and Peacemaking, Dr. Joyce M. Davis, President/CEO of the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg and a Trustee at Etown, and Conrad Moore, Roots of Justice (an organization that “seeks the liberation of all persons from oppression”).
The panel was facilitated by Dr. Monica Smith, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, though the panelists mainly facilitated their own conversation or answered audience questions.
The conversation focused on the importance of working to make the world a better place —no matter how much others may object to the work you are doing.
“You have to realize, when someone steps out or even just speaks out, it riles things up,” Davis said.
The panelists related movements that have gained traction today such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women’s March on Washington D.C. to the work King and other Civil Rights activists did during the Civil Rights era. Moore discussed the impact King had and the way King was able to inspire many people—though he was not well liked. Moore encouraged student attendees to be the motivators and to do the kinds of work that threatens the status quo.
“If you have the ability to mobilize people and give them a vision to actually see that some change is possible then you become dangerous. So, my prayer for all of you is that you become dangerous,” Moore said.
Students in the audience expressed their struggle with feeling as though it is sometimes impossible to enact change—especially change related to diversity—on a campus that is primarily white. Davis encouraged students to continue fighting for change, because they will find help if they look hard enough for it.
“There are good people here, you just can’t be silent—I don’t think you have to be nasty, you just can’t be silent,” Davis stated.
Davis and Rudy both discussed the struggle that Trump and non-Trump supporters are having with finding ways to work together and learning to heal their divides. Rudy expressed the need for people to listen to each other—and not just listen to rhetoric but listen to the fears of others and the actual deep-rooted reasonings for people’s beliefs.
“The ability to listen compassionately, nonjudgmentally is an incredible capacity,” Rudy said.
Davis also discussed the need for students to reach out to the communities beyond Elizabethtown in order to meet new people and work to broaden their interactions with other people, therefore broadening their impressions of people they may not have interacted with in the past.
“I would urge the millennials at Etown to make themselves uncomfortable, challenge themselves and get to know ‘the other,’” Davis said.