Cummings Peace Lecture 2013
Paul Loeb, author of “Soul of a Citizen,” shared with a packed Casa Loma Room Nov. 13 the importance of getting involved and taking a stand.
Loeb was the featured speaker during the annual Cummings Peace Lecture, an annual event made possible by Oliver deWolf ’21 and Edith M. Cummings. According to Chaplain John Walsh, Loeb is “one of the most important and significant voices in higher education as we discuss civic engagement.”
Loeb began his speech by discussing what causes people to not become part of a cause, even if it is something they find important.
“Most people feel kind of powerless, like there’s nothing they can do,” he said. “They feel too overwhelmed. How do you move from that point? You know the challenges and you want someone to deal with them, but it’s not you.”
Many think they must be without flaws to participate, Loeb said, but that’s impossible.
“To get involved, they might think they need to be as eloquent as King, as saintly as Mother Theresa, or as brilliant as Einstein,” he said. “You don’t have to be this perfect moral character. None of us can meet that standard.”
Once someone is ready to become part of something, the first thing to do is start small.
“Participate one step at a time,” Loeb said. “You don’t know where things will end up.”
Loeb shared anecdotes about Rosa Parks, President Barack Obama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and others getting involved in movements. He also spoke about an Egyptian woman he recently met, who was part of protests in her country last year. She was scared, he said, but she took a leap of faith.
“She said that it felt like this was the moment where she had to act,” he said.
Loeb also mentioned a young woman he met, a self-proclaimed "party girl," who spent the beginning of her time as a student at Virginia Tech not involved in anything. It was 2004, and during a class, she heard about climate change for the first time.
“She decided to read about it on her own, and joined a small environmental group with about four other students,” he said. “She created a sustainability network, and turned this group into a huge organization with 1,300 students. She went on to run the sustainability program when she graduated, and is now an environmental consultant in China. She said, ‘This is proof that an institution can change. This was a sleepy, disengaged campus, and now people are getting involved.'”
Loeb said he loves this story because of the distance the young woman travels.
“The lesson is that when somebody gets involved, you don’t know what they’ll go on to do,” he said. “They could do amazing things later on. Remembering that is tremendously important.”
Posted: Nov. 15, 2013
Written by: Catherine Garcia