Students of Rollins College have been raising their voices, seeking change and challenging the rules and norms of the institutions they find themselves in. From a pro-immigration student demonstration to student organizations writing letters to Congress, Spring 2017 has been a semester of activism and political engagement, ringing with echoes of the Presidential Inauguration that opened it, and the voices of the respondent opposition.
To the young persistent opposition, confronting injustice through non-violent campaign, here at Rollins and in campuses throughout the country, I hope you keep in mind the advice of the activists that came before you. To draw on their wisdom, I would like to offer these words to you:
You are powerful. You hold the most common and unique power in your research, your actions, and your very words to influence, educate and make change. Appreciate that.
Breathe that fact into you until it fills you up, and you feel the hand that’s holding your pen and the muscle your tongue is made of gain new strength.
Then, when that feeling settles and finds hold, feel responsibility. You are responsible for the quality of your contribution to the great debate you are now situating yourself in. You determine whether your voice is an insightful informed perspective or noise, shouting until all you are is loudness. You must seek the truth diligently before seeking to influence the lives of those who remain silent or voiceless. You are responsible for collecting the facts and for negotiating1 before you protest.
When you claim that responsibility, feel conviction and speak out. Your words are more resource than reservoir, and when you choose silence you condemn them to uselessness. Be confident and stand up from behind your laptops. Your presence is powerful. Be present, take action, because passive frustration is suffocating and you will only find fresh air outside. When you are ignored and laughed at and fought2, persist.
Finally activists, you are human. Embrace your humanity and your self. Find your authenticity and never give it up because no one can take it away without your permission. Do not pretend to find something worth losing yourself in pursuing3. Do not try to lift more than you can carry because that weight makes the strongest weary.
We live in a time where society is polarized by political views, where the role of the media as an institution is questioned and where change seems impending. Regardless of what you believe, this is the time to speak.