PRESIDENT'S BLOG - February 2014 - Loving One Another

February 6, 2014

Lately, I have been wondering what it means to really "love one another."  How do we prepare youth to do such, and how do we support this "loving" in our broader communities?  I admit, I am worried and wondering if we have a commitment to love one another.   Of course, it's February, and we are inundated with images of romantic love -- especially the more idealized versions of romantic love -- the falling in love part.   Promoting romantic love seems to be really big in American culture.   We spend a great deal of time following strategies to capture it, maintain it, and survive it.  

However, as many mature adults know, the daily practice and expressions of love are difficult human interactions that not only demand commitment but also endurance since loving others can stretch us in ways we never felt were possible.

There are novels, movies, poems, music videos, artistic expressions and other genres that have sought to capture and encapsulate this romantic love -- so we know what it should look like-- I guess.   However, in some religions and philosophical circles, there is also discussion about what it means to share love with neighbors, the broader citizenry, and global citizens of the planet.  I wonder about this type of love on most Sundays.  Just how do we operationalize this broad-based grand love that influences the well-being of others? 

Possibly, there is an example that deserves more review and replication.   For two years, for reasons I do not know, I was invited to participate in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI).   This Initiative was designed by President William Jefferson Clinton in 2007.   It encourages college students to look for creative solutions to problems in the global community.  To get the CGI going,  some college students were furnished seed money to design and implement innovative projects that seek to ameliorate pressing global challenges such as alleviating poverty, improving public health, supporting peace and human rights, advocating for environment and climate change, and delivering education.  About  1,200 students participated in both conferences I attended.  The students were demonstrating their concern and care for local communities and farther away neighbors by constructing solutions to help--to make life better for others.  President Clinton with his army of youth organizers seemed to be exemplifying, on a larger scale, at least one way to operationalize loving near and far neighbors.  Besides enjoying hearing about the innovative solutions to improve the well-being of others, it was also intriguing to watch the students from so many different countries and cultures interact.   Could this be fledgling diplomacy?

Recently, I have been reviewing the mission statements of a few colleges and universities to determine how higher education perceives that it fits into the theme of "loving one another" and promoting positive social action.  In mission statements randomly selected and reviewed, colleges/universities state that they "encourage service to humanity... dedication to innovation and social justice."  One college states that its core values include, "a global vision that understands and appreciates the common goals and purposes of all people," and "an appreciation of diversity that nourishes mutual respect and solidarity."   Another college states that it seeks to "sustain a community diverse in nature and democratic in practice, for we believe that only through considering many perspectives do we gain a deeper understanding of each other and the world."  So, it seems that the rhetoric is there, at least in the mission statements of some colleges.

At Cheyney University, as we begin our strategic thinking for our next strategic plan 2015-2020, I hope that we find ways to operationalize positive social action and the encouragement of well-being locally and globally.

It would be nice, too, if we helped students develop their capacity for life-long learning and "nourishing mutual respect and solidarity."

Happy Valentine's Month!

Michelle Howard-Vital, Ph.D.
Cheyney University of Pennsylvania