Friday, Jan. 13, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
I have fond memories of my first Christmas in America, when my freshman year dormitory roommate at LSU asked me if I wanted to help him and his family sell Christmas trees. “Does your family sell trees?” I asked. “No, but we volunteer at Christmastime and raise funds for the Huey P. Long Charity Hospital.” “Sure,” I said, not knowing anything about selling trees, and so I began my first experience of selling trees for four hours a night for eight evenings.
My take-home portion? A great feeling of having helped an organization with a mission to serve others. Since then, of course, I have served as a volunteer in many professional and civic organizations and, in the process, have enjoyed connecting with like-minded, kindhearted people and riding the emotional highs of fulfillment and satisfaction of having served others.
In the words of Albert Schweitzer, the French/German polymath, “… those among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”
On Monday, we will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through our MLK Day of Service, where our civic-minded students, faculty and staff will voluntarily serve many community and county organizations, including Greentree Learning & Childcare Center, Kaleidoscope Discovery Center, the Newburg Children’s Museum, Ozark Actors Theatre, the Ozark Rivers Audubon Trails Nature Center and the South Central Regional Veterans Group.
This Day of Service complements our other service-learning and volunteerism activities, such as the Gonzo Gives Back Day of Service held each March as part of our annual St. Pat’s activities and the service and philanthropic work of our fraternities and sororities, residence hall associations, design teams, and many other student organizations.
The hallmark trait of an S&T education is experiential learning, and these service programs provide excellent opportunities to develop and enhance personal leadership skills, engagement with campus and our broader communities, and perhaps the opportunity to reflect and learn about the plight of the less fortunate among us. My own early volunteering and societal service work helped to define and inspire how I would live the rest of my life.
I encourage our S&T community, particularly our students who are interested in enhancing their leadership skills and making a difference, to attend our wonderful event in honor of Dr. King’s commitment to service, featuring a dynamic, nationally recognized speaker, Ken Nwadike Jr., at 1 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, in Leach Theatre.
As we honor Dr. King’s legacy this Monday and begin a new semester on Tuesday, I hope we remember his legacy, the future he envisioned. To sense a little of the reality he experienced and the hopeful world he visualized, I hope we also take some time to read his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and reflect on the importance of its message for us today.
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