My first post!
Now, at the beginning of week 3, I feel as if I could write pages and pages on my experiences in Children’s Corps training thus far… However, I would like to instead share something I came across yesterday. While reading the news publication The Week, I encountered the following excerpt from Toni Morrison’s commencement address to Rutger’s class of 2011. Her words stuck with me and were called to my mind continuously during training today. As we shared our common feelings surrounding the often exhausting effort to express to others what type of work we will be doing, Toni’s words seemed to resonate so clearly! I feel she so eloquently articulates that energy and drive that lead us all to be involved with Children’s Corps. Her words serve as a powerful reminder of why we want to work in child welfare and identify as optimistic, idealistic, and change-making individuals.
“I have often wished that Jefferson had not used that phrase, “the pursuit of happiness”, as the third right—although I understand in the first draft was “life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” Of course, I would have been one of those properties one had the right to pursue, so I suppose happiness is an ethical improvement over a life devoted to the acquisition of land; acquisition of resources; acquisition of slaves. Still, I would rather he had written life, liberty and the pursuit of meaningfulness or integrity or truth.
I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter, but I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough. Of course, you deserve it. But if that is all you have in mind—happiness—I want to suggest to you that personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life, it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good.
There is serious work, truly serious work, for you to do. I know you have been blasted with media designed to change you from citizens to consumers, and most recently, simply tax payers; from a community of engaged civic life, to individuals with hundreds of electronic friends; from a yearning for maturity to a desire for eternal childhood. That’s the media’s role. But I tell you, no generation, least of all mine, has a complete grip on the imagination and goals of subsequent generations; not if you refuse to let it be so. You don’t have to accept media or even scholarly labels for yourself: Generation A, B, C, X, Y, [majority], minority, red state, blue state; this social past or that one. Every true heroine breaks free from his or her class—upper, middle, and lower—in order to serve a wider world.
Of course, you’re general and you have to function as a group sometimes. But you are also singular. You are a citizen in society and a person like no other on the planet. No one has the exact memory that you have. So far, no one has your genetic duplicate. These are not paralyzing clashes. They represent the range and the depth of human life. What is now the limit of human endeavor is not the limit of intelligent endeavor. And what is now known is not at all what you are capable of knowing. There is much serious, hard and ennobling work to do. And, bit-by-bit, step-by-step, you can change things—the things that need changing.”
The core message of Toni’s speech is expressed in the discussions and comments offered in the training room everyday- that we can seek to improve society by enabling others and, in doing so, infuse our own lives with meaning. Spending my days with the intelligent and caring Children’s Corps team feeds my desire to keep working for change and for something more.