LTE: Diversity Of Perspective
This Is The Edited Version Of A Speech Given At The Student Assembly Meeting On 10/1/13
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 00:10
I speak today in support of diversity. The diversity of which I speak runs thicker than any blood bond, is more evident than the color of one’s skin, and is that which underpins all differences meaningful in our shared human experience. This diversity was on full display at last Thursday’s event regarding gay marriage, and it is this same diversity that we must treasure at all times—willing to take risks in how we share it with others instead of safely, yet cowardly, burying it under the dirt of our minds or sending it to the deep chasms of division. This diversity is of the mind and spirit. This is diversity of perspective.
Of all types of diversity that we talk about, that of perspective is the most important. Despite its centrality in animating our actions or motivating one’s modus vivendi, it is the one that is most often neglected on a college campus. We often content ourselves with the important, yet proxy components, of perspective. It is indeed good and justified that we invest great resources into addressing issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, etc. Yet, the events and initiatives that we put on that seek to make our community more inclusive by these standards should never forget that no fact or viewpoint is valuable until it has been tested, until it has been placed into a crucible of discussion where its proponents defend it with the utmost eloquence and intentionality. What view has value unless made aware of its antithesis? What defenders have not fought against their opposition? In the Student Assembly, do the sponsors and co-sponsors of bills not feel as if legislation is worth that much more after surmounting the opposition or at least addressing it? Our beliefs and positions must be threshed if we are to celebrate the ability of wisdom and discernment to guide us through the many quandaries of life.
For as much as our minds yearn for a battle of ideas and our souls for a campaign of ideals, I have seen far too often at Boston College where students are far too willing to assume the other side consists of nothing more than right-wing bigots or leftist loonies. And perhaps, most harmfully, we run away from such confrontation or keep silent for fear of judgment. Well, boys and girls, if you really want to be seen as leaders once you graduate from the Heights and set the world aflame, then you better be able to take ownership of your beliefs instead of assigning them to the ignominious place of hushed conversation. Think about it. For the rest of your life, you may never be asked the same questions again or be forced to question your own beliefs. What has happened to many our starry-eyed predecessors? The majority of them live easy lives—hanging out with self-same company, reading the same media sources, and living comfortably in the domains of black and white. I hope none of you looking to inherit the mantle of leadership become as such. We are blessed to be at a university, whose founder sent his best friends and followers to lands and peoples unknown—confident in their ability to speak for a faith that could hold its own. Is there anything more Jesuit, more Catholic than challenging the prejudices of the world and our own?
If we can agree then that true conversation, a discourse of ideas, is indeed a right and necessary component of our development as leaders, then we must not shirk away from the duty to promote an environment receptive to a true diversity of perspective. While I know for a fact that the Eagles gathered here are indeed willing to talk, let us ask ourselves this—are we willing to meet the other person on his own ground? Are we confident enough to engage the opposing belief in its own terms? Or, are we far too comfortable with demeaning the other viewpoint and personally attacking our opponents? Because of those who are too quick to attack and far less able to listen, we now all share the blame for a campus where discussions are too few and far between. How will we know we are actually making progress if we refuse to engage? Quite frankly, we cannot, and the results of the campus climate survey indicate as much. BC is in danger, my friends, because we have sacrificed diversity of perspective sometimes for our own comfort and personal agendas.
But to believe that the current status quo will always remain the same is a disservice to the ability of our community to move forward. Last Thursday’s event proved, not so much a unified front against an “anti-gay marriage” proponent but the ability of the student body to at least listen and engage respectfully, and from the questions relayed back to me, both sides had their say, retreated, and now healthily dwell in that gray area—more so than before. I applaud the leadership of GLC in helping to foster a discussion and not a diminution of ideals. It is that type of leadership that will move us closer to having every student at BC confident in his or her beliefs and stating then openly—whatever they may be. Friends, we have been given mouths to speak. Let us use them well and often because now is a time for talking.
Executive Vice President of UGBC