By Ricardo Azziz | January 20, 2011
When I had the honor of delivering the Peace Offering during last Friday’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, I was gratified to note the diversity of the audience.
Such diversity is reflected on our campus as well. Our students, for example, come from almost every county in Georgia, from many U.S. states and from several foreign countries around the globe. Our faculty members represent a virtual global melting pot.
How fortunate we are to have such a wellspring of diversity on campus. Every aspect of your individuality contributes to the rich fabric of mankind. Our music, art, customs and colloquialisms are just a few of the threads we weave together to form the exquisite patchwork of society. Such diversity creates a rich, interesting and multihued world that not only enriches our environment, but enriches us personally. I find this variety extraordinarily uplifting and exciting.
Such diversity adds richness to our ideas and instincts, our actions and approaches. This richness optimizes our ability to face today’s challenges, compelling us to revisit and re-examine paradigms of the past.
Yet even today, in our world of instant connectivity, we often encounter the poison of segregation in our midst. Some still believe, unconsciously or otherwise, that skin color, nationality, culture or the like are cause for scrutiny or rejection. Mind you, this is not about minorities or majorities, nor about rich or poor, nor about politics or parties. Prejudice and discrimination know no boundaries.
I find that, more often or not, such prejudice is based in fear and suspicion: fear of loss or change in social order, in lifestyle, in jobs . . . suspicion of the unknown or different.
Instead of focusing on our differences, I challenge you to embrace our commonality. Regardless of our culture, ethnicity or birthplace, we are all much more alike than different. We all value kindness, health, generosity and the other wonderful values imparted to children in all corners of the globe.
Look past differences in dress or accent, for instance, to consider that a person who seems inherently different actually shares your commitments to family, faith, prosperity, freedom, peace, laughter and conviviality. We are bonded by our shared humanity. Our differences are relatively superficial, yet evident enough to make the world an interesting place.
Today’s youth has the advantage of embracing diversity. Young people have been raised communicating across the Internet and airwaves, connecting with people of a multitude of races, nationalities, cultures and inclinations. Their grasp of events and situations in faraway lands is not only more informed than that of preceding generations, but more personal. We should follow their lead and model their example.
How fortunate we are to have such a wellspring of diversity on campus. Please know that whatever unique qualities you bring to our community are highly valued. And collectively, our potential is nothing short of boundless.