In a very short time, we are about to leave the comfortable environments of CSB/SJU and enter a wide expanse of experience and opportunity. The world that awaits us is vast, filled with different people, places and events. Much of this will be completely new to us—we will experience things we have never experienced before.
Until now, we have lived in a relatively controlled environment. We have been incredibly lucky, for CSB/SJU has provided for us a variety of resources about navigating a multicultural world. The Intercultural Center has opened up dialogue about diversity here in the United States through its many events, such as the speech of Dr. Kirt Wilson or the student panel “Shade to Shade, Heart to Heart”. The International Student Office has facilitated the navigation of cultures around the world, helping people from outside the United States find their niches in Minnesota. The Institute for Women’s Leadership has challenged our thoughts about gender and pushed the female population of St. Ben’s to reach for their ambitions. Special interest clubs have provided spaces for people of many races, nationalities, sexual orientations, political affiliations and religions to express themselves. These organizations and more have taught us about the diverse world that awaits outside the campus gates, and have given us the tools to work within it.
We are leaving this controlled environment with all of its structure. However, the transition we are making has benefits. We are now able to put into practice what we have learned. The world is filled with conflict about race, gender, sexual orientation and religion, among other attributes. We can make a difference, slight but important, by using our new knowledge to build solutions, and more importantly, build relationships.
If there is a central message to take away from everything we have been taught here, from diversity panels to reminders of the Benedictine Values, it is to treat others with kindness and respect. This will be the key that opens up a more desirable world. When we build relationships with others and show that we respect and accept them, however different they may be from us and in whatever ways, we are spreading peace and putting a little water on the fire of conflict. Relationships will also be personally fulfilling to us—we can help each other to grow and support each other along every step, no matter how steep.
That is what I hope every senior will take away from CSB/SJU after graduation. Let’s all make a commitment to be respectful and kind starting this year. We will add value to the awaiting world, and when we work together, we can accomplish great things.