I could go way out on a limb here and make the claim that St Thomas students are privileged. Who does this entail...all, some? What would you all say? “No, not me, I would never act that way!” or how about, “that’s absurd, there are way more families with way more money than mine”. My response would be, “that’s great and maybe true but number 1: I never specified whether St Thomas students act or are privileged”, and number 2: “this statement is totally subjective”. Privileged can mean wealth in terms of money, family, friends, where you were born, and last but surely not least is race. Our country, like many, has a problem of discrimination by race and this can translate to slimmer opportunities. But for the sake of simplicity, this article will stress privileged in terms of money and birthplace. Giving a dictionary definition of privileged encompasses defining underprivileged. Is underprivileged defined as only being able to afford to go to Mankato, or underprivileged as living in the slums of Bombay, India with barely any access to a basic education. Well that’s just the thing, there is no concrete definition of underprivileged and privileged. This is a tough topic to discuss due to subjectivity but an important one nevertheless.
I was recently in South America. Chile to be exact. And I had the trip of a lifetime and experienced many new things you couldn’t experience here in the states. All within the bounds of the law of course. The most intriguing thing for me, was experiencing a new culture and population that acted and thought differently than us. The people of Chile were amazing and friendlier than I could have ever expected but in terms of their economic and societal advancement, they have just moved up into the ranks of a “second world country”. For me, this was like time travelling. Reasoning? One of the main causes of air pollution is...that’s right, you guessed it, wood burning stoves. Wood burning stoves… Those still exist? In houses? For heating? And Cooking? This is unbelievable to me. And just wait, it get’s better. Their even greater problem, is getting the people to switch to electric or more efficient stoves. The government of Chile is trying to make their lives better but they don’t want it… What does this all mean? Chile is worlds apart from the US. It may not look like it, but rooted deeply, their thought processes in specific areas are far different than ours. And of course this is not all inclusive to the entire population of Chile, I’m just generally speaking. Wow, you may be thinking I just got carried away into the middle of the ocean. Well I will bring you right back. Seeing the underdevelopment of Chile (in terms of people and society) in comparison to the US, I have realized that our entire country is privileged. No matter where you live or what situation you are in. You could be in prison, and the US would be more favorable than Chile. I’m sure if I tried to tell the inmate that he’s lucky to be in prison in America, I would most likely leave in a wheelchair. I am also purely speculating on the Chilean prison system, but based on our tax allocation, I would feel safe to assume that it reigns true. You can feel free to agree to disagree but hopefully you will agree with the point that we are truly blessed to be US citizens. Almost everyone in Chile knows that Donald Trump is our president. I could almost guarantee that almost everyone here in the states does not know the president of Chile. Again, with this point I am driving the critical realization that we need to be thankful for our birthplace and take advantage of our nation’s freedom.
So in the comparison of the US to Chile (and it’s probably safe to say any third world country). We as a nation are privileged. No matter who you are or where you’re from, if you’re from America you are born into a land of opportunity and prosperity. If we made this specific to St Thomas, wow. We are in a whole new bracket of privileged. We are one bracket away from the most privileged people in the world. The only people higher are the Kardashians, movie stars and athletes. This is critical information here. If our St Thomas community can change our thinking to this, we would be motivated as heck to get out into the world and do absolutely amazing things. The biggest part of this is being grateful for everything we have. It is okay to be privileged, but when looked at and acted upon through the appropriate lens. When an individual begins acting privileged through boasting and flaunting the amount of money they have or the authority that their father has. It’s just a disrespect to themselves and to those who have to see it. Now if we begin to act privileged in a positive and productive way, we can change the world. Before we can advance in the world as individuals we first need to understand our place in the world. Taking all facts into account, we can create our own individual profile. This new way of thinking will spark an overall appreciation for your life. You will begin to spread kindness, motivation, your newfound wisdom will rub off on others to spark their new future. I would never have been able to materialize this idea without seeing a new “second world country” firsthand. This idea is profound and when you actually apply it, along with your faith, you will begin to see amazing things unfold and have a new perspective on your current situation.
Now for my final opinion. I firmly believe that every student attending St Thomas is extremely privileged in the sense of quality of education, quality of resources, quality of professors and quality of peers. We are all surrounded by greatness and we don’t realize it. With this said, I also believe that there are many in our country who are not blessed with the opportunities that we are. This could be financially or in terms of family-life. Students of St Thomas are privileged through many lenses that could go on and on but the crucial fact to make our situation a reality is the understanding of our place in the world. Being this close to the top, we can’t let this opportunity go. We can truly change the world, we just have to want it. And by the way, I don’t really like the world privileged and cannot advise using it in your daily vocabulary. Instead use blessed. There is rich meaning of the word that is synonymous to privileged.