Take your activism into the “real world”
Diversity seems to be the topic that really affected me more than most during my time here at the University. Many people have come up to me recently and asked me where my passion for diversity comes from. I correct them, telling them that I do not have a specific passion for diversity, but rather that the topic of diversity has called out to me, and I have merely responded.
It was during the spring of my freshman year that an incident of anti-Semitism broke through the Wash. U. bubble and hit my freshman-year roommate. Worse still, it came from a student who lived in our very dorm. This was something that I could not fathom and could not stand for. Working with University officials, I created the Student Diversity Initiative, now known as Connect 4, to address problems like these.
In the spring of 2009, the issue of socio-economic diversity began to be addressed on our campus. At the time, Wash. U. was ranked 25th of the 25 top schools in U.S. News & World Report when it came to socio-economic diversity. Again, I could not believe that we, as a community of engaged citizens who were actively trying to better our world, would ignore our moral obligation to help those who are less fortunate right here within our own University. When I was asked to help lead the new efforts of improving socio-economic diversity through the founding of a new student group, WU/FUSED (Washington University for Undergraduate Socio-Economic Diversity), I knew that turning my back was not an option.
And of course, this year, during our Senior Class Trip to Chicago, the class went to the now internationally infamous Mother’s Bar, and after almost 200 students were let in, the first six African-American students trying to enter were denied at the door. We could not allow racism and bigotry to go unanswered, and the response that our class showed the nation was beyond exemplary.
While I have had a Wash. U. career filled with activism, this has been in no way different than many of my peers in the Class of 2010. Whether it be protesting the new U-City “zero-tolerance policy” or doing flash mobs for environmentalism, whether you look at issues of poverty or of poetry, and whether you agree with proponents of gay marriage or are a fan of Karl Rove, it has been our class, the Class of 2010, that has made this campus as lively, as engaged and as active as it has been over the past few years.
We have learned a lot from this University, but know that this University has learned a lot from us. We have taught the classes above and below us how to pursue their passions and get others to care as well. We have taught the administration that decisions can and should be made together, as a partnership to benefit the community, not bilaterally, in secrecy or without student input. We have taught the nation that under our generation’s leadership, hate will no longer be tolerated, and justice will no longer be synonymous with financial gain.
Indeed, we as a class have much to be proud of. But we must be mindful that this is just our beginning. This has all been a practice run. Now is the time for us to do what we’ve been doing on a much larger scale. It is time for us to be active in following our passions, for us to be diplomatic in getting what we want, and for us to be resolute in defending our morals.
We are now leaving the leadership positions that we have worked our way up to in the “fake world” that is Washington University to start working our way up to leadership positions in the “real world” that is our broader society. And whether you find that your calling in life is the same as it has been or you find that what you want to pursue is something completely different, never forget your experiences here. Never forget the activism, the passion or the pursuit of justice. Because as we work our way up to becoming the leaders of the “real world,” it is up to us to keep this fight that we have started here going. It is up to us to keep pressing for the change we wish to see in the world, and it is up to each and every one of us to ensure that The Right Side of History, Mother’s Bar, Environmentalism, U/FUSED, flash mobs and all of the other incredible things that we have done over the past few years are not just going to have taught and forever changed this wonderful “fake world” of ours.
Fernando can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Let the real fight begin!