18 April 2008

Jan Willis: "Do Something"

I've started working on the blog for UGA's Invisible Children chapter, so expect a few posts from there. Here's one on Jan Willis' visit to UGA.

On Wednesday, Dr. Jan Willis, professor of Relgion at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, was the guest lecturer for my Religion in Literature class, and later that evening, gave a presentation titled “Buddhism, Nonviolence, and Dr. King”.

Dr. Willis is an amazing woman - an accomplished author, but also an accomplished human being. When she was in the tenth grade, she marched with Dr. King in Alabama. Several years later, she traveled to India, looking for answers, and studied under Tibetan lama Thubten Yeshe.

I had the opportunity to ask her a question after her lecture to my class and, trying - and very likely failing - to not make a fool of myself, asked something along the lines of, “What was it like to grow up in such a troubled time, and especially to be traveling abroad as the US tried to tear itself apart?” An average question to be sure, her answer was more poetic than I ever could have hoped for.

She said, in short, that there was a general feeling of hope. Even though the sixties saw, within five years, the assasinations of JFK, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, she said, there was a great sense that things would get better. Even as she discussed the Vietnam War, she was quick to point out that her generation, the college kids, were working for the world they wanted to live in. She mentioned that she is asked to give lectures to people her own age, people who have seen the world slowly stop to care, and she gives them this advice: “Do something. Build a house with Habitat, do anything. Do something.”

In the later lecture, Dr. Willis devoted a lot of time to what she discussed earlier in the day. She mentioned the great leaders of her time, all devoted to civil rights, but all devoted to peace, too. And then she mentioned Ghandi’s now-famous quote, used as the motto for “Step Up”: Become the change that you want to see in the world.

Our club has an incredible opportunity. We are at a major university with the resources to reach the entire world. We have the professors to guide us, the students to support us, and the world to challenge us. I look at Sanford Stadium on a game day and ask myself, “What would the world be like if those 90,000 people devoted themselves to something other than the Bulldog Nation?

And I say it’s about time we find out. [Originally posted at: Turning Apathy into Activism]

Rock on.