Civic responsibility: “civic” comes from the Latin word civicus, meaning citizen. Responsibility comes from the Latin word responsum, meaning reply. What these definitions in pair emphasize to me is the importance of action, and they encompass a great deal of power if we are always engaged.
I realize that some days, issues like poverty, education and healthcare in our local and global societies seem impossible to grasp. As a graduate student with the world at my fingertips and about to embark on a professional career, I question myself often.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said eloquently, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” Often I wonder, “Am I doing enough to help others? Where do I begin? Isn’t tackling these obstacles impossible?”
However, I learned recently the importance of creative thinking and envisioning a different future. I visited Washington, D.C., and attended the American College Personnel Association conference in Baltimore, and after visiting these places I felt inspired and moved to spark change.
As I walked by the blocks and blocks of government offices, I thought about the powerful decisions being made within those walls and felt bogged down by the magnitude of it all. But at the conference I had the privilege of hearing remarkable individuals who are making a true difference for our nation, and I had a few “aha” moments.
First, we must work together and allow everyone to have basic human rights. As the nation becomes more diverse, we must learn to incorporate diverse perspectives into our work and rethink the status quo. What worked in the past might not work in the future. The power of technology and social media changes how we access information and dialogue.
Second, and more important for me, I discovered my own voice and potential. As we think about all the inequities in the world, we must learn to make a difference within the vocation to which we are called. I want to change the world, but I cannot change it alone.
Therefore, I made a vow to use my individual power with my interactions and contributions in the realms I can touch. For me, this falls in education. I want my environment to be the most open, inclusive area possible, so all students feel comfortable and have access within that space.
Others will make a difference in their fields: healthcare, law, management. . . . Each one of us has the ability to influence others and make our environments more just and equitable for all.
This brings me full circle to the importance of civic responsibility. As we look at the state of the world, we cannot sit passively. We must engage in conversation and action. This starts with education about the problems of the world, and then a need need to brainstorm new, creative solutions, always being open to change and opportunity.