Growing up, I always had children of different races in my classroom. I never thought anything different of my classmates, and I was never told to treat them differently. Perhaps this was part of the larger picture, a distant effect of the first brave students across the country who participated in desegregation.
This week marked the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School. On Sept. 25, 1957, the Little Rock Nine opened the doors for Arkansas schools to integrate. They were faced with opposition from classmates and parents. They were hated, but their courage to remain in the school helped shape what Arkansas looks like today.
Sometimes I think we underestimate our influence as people. Monumental events like the anniversary of the Little Rock Nine remind me of this. These are the times I feel smallest, regardless of my below-average height. This makes me wonder how often we consider the impact we can leave on the world.
As college students, we always have something on our plate. We have homework, tests and class projects. We have work, social club functions and organization meetings. We have friends and family with whom we maintain relationships.
I think we grow the most in these four years. We are challenged to think critically and step outside of our comfort zones. We learn about time management and juggling several commitments. We tend to think of these years as preparation for the “real world,” yet we forget that we are in the real world already. What is it that we can do with our time on Earth now? In our young age and positions, what can we use to help refine the social and political issues around us?
Do we take time to consider how our actions now can have positive effects on the future?
Before we can implement change, we need to be aware of the changes that need to be made. We should also be students of the world, being informed of what is happening around us. It is only then that we can truly make a difference.
While people are being persecuted in Myanmar for their faith, Kim Jong-un is leading North Korea in hate, and citizens of the Caribbean islands are picking up the debris left by storms, I wonder what we can do as average students to help implement change.
After all, that’s what the Little Rock Nine did.
Similarly, I wonder about people who are part of extreme religious groups like ISIS or the LRA. I wonder if people look past the acts of terrorism and have compassion on people whose life is dedicated to what most of the world sees as evil, but what they have been taught is indisputably good. I wonder how we can use our influence of knowledge, skills or even simple prayer to change these people who in turn change the way the world operates.
As young adults, we are the future leaders of the nation. Upon graduation, we will enter into the workforce and many of us will hold influential positions, from government to education to the medical field.
It is imperative that we consider the world around us today, even if we seem so far removed from it. Not only because the world is becoming more connected, but because people are people, no matter where they live, what religion they follow or what culture they identify with.