Every year, WSU announces campus-wide theme that influences the common book selection, guest speakers and events that are planned throughout the academic year. Last year it was “Well-connected” and focused all the different aspects of wellness from Micheal Kimmel’s critique of social/emotional wellness of young men in his book Guyland to the W.E.L.L conference of health experts and workshops hosted in the IWC. This year’s university theme is Civic Action. The official language states that the theme is:
“premised on the belief that “improving our world” requires both an acceptance of social responsibility and an active participation in meeting the challenges of a modern society. This responsibility is borne out through political activity, community service, engagement in leadership roles, advocacy and becoming informed on issues that relate to social change.”
Now, that sounds pretty intimidating. “Social responsibility” and “meeting the challenges of modern society”–what does that even mean? Let me break it down for you. Basically it just means that we have a duty as citizens of our community to help others and to help make a difference in the world around us, whether that’s through getting involved politically, volunteer service, taking on leadership roles, or becoming more informed about important social issues. While that explanation may be easier to understand, it still sounds rather daunting. I mean, who exactly needs help? What differences need to be made? Where do you even begin with all this?
One place to start is the Activism Jam, held tonight in the WSU Main Campus courtyard from 4-7pm. At the Activism Jam, community organizations will have booths set up so you will be able to see all the different ways you can become actively involved in civic life right in here in Winona. The idea is that people will mingle around and pick up a few brochures or sign up to volunteer. Even if you can’t commit to an organization right now, you can at least learn more about what it means to be engaged in civic action. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, there will also be live music and a free outdoor BBQ.
Once you’ve had your fill of BBQ and picked up a few brochures, if you’re still looking for some more information about getting involved, head to the Harriet Johnson Auditorium (formerly known as Somsen Auditorium). At 7pm, author Paul Loeb will be speaking about how it is possible to live a socially committed life and the benefits of connectedness and a sense of purpose that civic involvement can provide. This is also a free event, so if you are not busy this evening I encourage you to attend.
I will be at his presentation and I am curious about what he has to say. I don’t do much active participation in civic events, but I am definitely not against it. I believe that I am not alone in saying that, for me, civic action and community involvement are just one of those things that sound really good and I always mean to do more of it, like exercising or donating to charities. Maybe Paul Loeb’s presentation will be the thing to inspire me (and hopefully all of you) to turn those good intentions into actions.