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Column: Empowering lessons of reciprocity

Northeastern%27s+120th+class+waits+for+Convocation+to+begin.+%2F+Photo+by+Glenn+Billman
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Column: Empowering lessons of reciprocity

Northeastern's 120th class waits for Convocation to begin. / Photo by Glenn Billman

Northeastern's 120th class waits for Convocation to begin. / Photo by Glenn Billman

Northeastern's 120th class waits for Convocation to begin. / Photo by Glenn Billman

Northeastern's 120th class waits for Convocation to begin. / Photo by Glenn Billman

Melissa Wells, columnist

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In a letter sent out by the Office of the President summarizing convocation, one line stood out:

“… Learning is a reciprocal act …We acquire important lessons when we converse, question and collaborate with people from across our diverse community.”

America is known to cloak herself in exceptionalism that is accepted as routine, despite the cultural richness that makes our society distinct. The diversity within Northeastern and the greater American community is instrumental in how we acquire the lessons that help us improve. But the very act of learning has changed, as has the basis of what it means to be a college student in 2018. If a nation’s culture resides in the hearts of its people, the Northeastern student body must reflect a culture of kindness that fosters diversity as much as it celebrates it — in which our conversations seek not to polarize one another but to elevate both points of view. If learning should truly be reciprocated, we must learn from the mistakes of those in power and hope the commitment our campus makes to diversity and kindness serve as a lesson in return. 

That statement is also reflective of our duty to larger American society and even international societies some of us belong to: to converse, to collaborate, to listen to those regardless of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin.

Why has that changed?

Why is it that conversing has become yelling without retaining anything the other has to say? Why is it that rather than collaborate with the diverse communities that make up America, racism is emboldened — isolating minority communities and allowing the issues that plague those communities to be questioned instead? Why is the equal importance of their existence questioned at all?

Being a student today means we shouldn’t engage in that ignorance if we commit ourselves to learning, whether we’re in a classroom or not. Being a student in 2018 means learning which side of history you want to be on — and then acting upon what you believe is right. It means that disagreeing sounds like this: “I don’t believe in that but I respect that you do.” It means that what you do today has an effect tomorrow. The Office of the President imparted to our community, “a few lessons to ponder as we each continue our lifelong journey of learning.” As individuals in a collective body set to take on a new semester of learning, I ask that you inspire one another. Empower those around you. But most importantly, when fear and hate manifest in whatever form they may take … remember to love, remember to be kind, remember to listen. 

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