Last year students had the privilege of hearing from several speakers who brought us inspiring messages of acceptance, struggle and perseverance.
Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine, shared his experiences with the desegregation of schools and explained how racism is a persistent systemic issue. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti ’88 encouraged us to become more involved members of the community at school and throughout the city, and activist Jackson Katz sparked a heated school-wide debate when he challenged students to view sexism and gender violence as more than just a women’s issue.
Each of these speakers provided insight that influenced daily conversation and debate around campus. My hope is that we don’t stop having these conversations just because a speaker isn’t standing in front of us. At Harvard-Westlake, we are clearly in a location of privilege, and each day we ought to use that platform as a way to initiate discussions regarding these issues, even if there isn’t an assembly to guide us.
This past year, a compelling speaker would ignite a flame fueling meaningful debates across campus, but after a couple of days, it would seem as if the speaker were never there.
A prerequisite to creating dialogue on campus is being educated on both sides of every issue. I am on the debate team at school, and we are required to prepare arguments on both sides of our topic.
This is how I strive to approach every issue, whether it be political, social or familial.
Only after I am familiar with multiple perspectives on a subject do I feel comfortable debating it in a formal setting or discussing it casually with my friends.
I challenge all members of the community to learn more about the viewpoints that fundamentally contradict their own. Read an article from that news source you always brush off. Take the time to really comprehend why your peer’s opinion is incompatible with your own. By understanding the opposing argument better, you can more confidently defend your own, and if you feel slightly uncomfortable or irritated reading material you don’t agree with, don’t worry, that’s a common side effect of learning.
Once we become a community that brings multiple perspectives to every issue, we can have educated and productive campus debates.
We ought to be in a constant state of discussion. We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of injustice.
Let’s continue to challenge the misconception of America as a post-racial society, even if Terrence Roberts isn’t here to provide insight. Sexism and gender violence didn’t suddenly stop being relevant just because we went on summer break. We still have an obligation to give back to our community and city, and there is a litany of other issues in our society that also warrant our attention.
I urge everyone to make a conscious effort to embody the ideals brought to us last year by the speakers and to use our platform as a way of initiating the type of conversations that lead to change.