Monday, February 14, 2011

speaking up

I teach a course on human rights and another on women's literature that is themed "finding your voice." We look at writers who find their voices as they speak up about issues of importance to us all. We consider who does so more effectively and why. I love seeing my students engaged with issues of human rights. I love hearing how they've shared what they are learning with their peers.

I do not wish to be an armchair humanitarian. In graduate school I managed to keep a foot in both the academic and social justice (specifically, refugee resettlement) worlds. And while my current position has allowed me to speak about human rights to a wide audience of learners, I miss having that on-the-ground experience. I do not wish to talk about speaking out without speaking out myself. As a first step, in the last two weeks I've emailed or called 6 government officials on various issues. (As a side note, I had a lovely conversation with Sen. Kathleen Vinhout about the value of education in the state of Wisconsin--preaching to the choir, given her support, but important and pleasant nonetheless.)

In grad school, my refugee resettlement colleagues wondered why on earth I was getting a degree in poetry. My MFA classmates considered my work to be a more interesting side job than waitressing. Now I look back on these interests coming together and I keep recalling that wonderful quote in the biblical book of Esther: it may be for such a time as this that you are here. I have the tremendous feeling that I am preparing for something.

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