I, with my pale skin and blonde hair, stood there in stark contrast among a crowd of children with beautiful brown skin and dark eyes. I was in Naitolia, Tanzania four years ago working on a story about an MSU partner project with a community to make clean water accessible to its residents. One young boy kept rubbing my arm, and then his own, with a confused look on his face. Finally, he looked up at me with a smile and said, “But, they feel the same. They feel exactly the same. We are the same.”
To this day I still tear up remembering that moment. I love the memory of a purely innocent child realizing that though our skin looked very different, we were very much the same. I only wish that everyone had the same outlook as my young friend in Naitolia. Certainly the world has made strides, but there is much more progress to be made. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
This past Monday, we celebrated MLK Jr. Day to help us all remember the work that still needs to be done to ensure equality. Here on campus, we held a student leadership conference, a march for justice, scholarship dinner, a museum exhibit, performance and a variety of service projects. As MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon says, “We believe that service and involvement in the community are gateways to meaningful engagement with the world.” You can read more about her thoughts on the topic in her latest note, From the President’s Desk: Recommitting to a common, greater good.
President Simon is right — education occurs in many places other than classrooms. Here at MSU, students have countless opportunities to explore the world around them and find their passions.
Kaylah Jetton in Japan with Japanese studentsKaylah Jetton, a senior from Detroit, found her passion in global studies. She says her opportunity to participate in a study abroad experience in Japan made her want to work with others to bring cultures together. It also sparked her desire to go into the Foreign Service. She says, “More than anything, MSU has given me clarity and a sense of belonging. Here, people support me and tell me my dream does matter and I should and can go into a career that I love.” Watch a great video and read more about this cool young Spartan in STUDENT VIEW: From local to global.
I’m sure that speaking Japanese with local residents required Kaylah to do an awful lot of careful listening. It’s often through listening that we learn the most important lessons.
Prabu David, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, recently did some soul searching to figure out how he was bringing joy to the world and realized he hadn’t done enough listening. I really love that he was willing to admit his perceived faults and share his thoughts in the FACULTY VOICE: The gift of listening. Check it out to learn more about his pledge to double down on listening.
I like to think that Spartans do a pretty good job at listening. Spartans are open, inclusive, willing to address problems and look for solutions. Martin Luther King Jr. also said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” In a world that has a never-ending supply of really tough challenges, Spartans always step up and do the right thing. Spartans Will.