On Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the 50th anniversary celebration of the chartering of CKI (also known as Circle K the college equivalent of Kiwanis). I was honored to be asked to give the keynote on the rich culture of service at W&M and to celebrate a milestone unlike anything the College has ever been a part. CKI is the oldest service organization at W&M – a university rich in its tradition of service and CKI was instrumental in cultivating the culture of service that we are so very proud of. Following are excerpts of my speech:
In preparing to speak with you tonight I was reminded that in November 1999 I spoke to the CKI (then Circle K) inductees in this very room, on this very spot, give or take a few feet. The speech I gave in 1999 is very different from the one I will deliver tonight. The William and Mary culture of service of 1999 is very different than the one you interact with today. Today we dream bigger, dig deeper and expect more – of ourselves and our community.
So first some questions for you to consider:
What IS the role of the university in the community?
What is your responsibility as a member of W&M and CKI to the community?
How do you interact with community?
What can you do more, or better, to alleviate suffering or hardship?
What might you need to know more about in order to be more effective?
Recently a student wrote me about her service journey. Her words indicative of immense growth and approrpiate intellectual challenge. She writes, “When I began to volunteer at William and Mary, suddenly I was expected to actively and critically think about service. I was not just volunteering to fix a problem; I was studying why the problem existed and being asked what my role was in addressing it. Every time I thought I had found the solution- gender equality, education, health care, public policy- someone would push me to think harder, to delve deeper. ”
W&M students are insisting that their learning be dynamic and that it span beyond the confines of these walls. And what has unfolded, what is still evolving is what you see today. Programs in Williamsburg, on the Eastern Shore, in DC and Petersburg, in countries across Latin America and in African countries that work toward finding solutions to poverty, hunger, the AIDS epidemic, providing secure housing and asking questions aimed at finding solutions…solutions that we realize will take years, often times decades and more often a lifetime to help solve. But, it is in classrooms, clinics, on front porches and on dirt paths that students are emerging as advocates, their interest in scholarship is blossoming, their passion coming into focus. It is in speaking with community members that they are considering the role of the anthropologist, the doctor, the sociologist, the pastor and often for the first time seeing themselves fitting into a role. At night alone with their friends or only their thoughts students reflect on their place in society and seek to start a journey toward discovery. It is in these moments that they are making meaning of their life. They are finding purpose.
What is your responsibility to the community?
How will you discover your light bulb moment?
When will you turn the corner?
When will you answer the call?