Inspirational author shares the Soul of a Citizen with students

Most college students may believe that they do not have the power to change the wrongs that exist today. Paul Loeb believes just the opposite.

On Thursday, Sept. 13 in the Union Ballroom, Loeb discussed his novel Soul of a Citizen, and why all students can take a stand for what they believe in. After filling the front rows, students listened to Loeb's thought-provoking questions.

Loeb shared stories about activists who started with little support, such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu; all influential figures in the past and today. Once reluctant to stand up for what they believed in, they eventually came to be what they are recognized for: strong, influential men and women.

"Everything he said had a lot of value. [He] made you think about everything," said sophomore Tom O'Loughlin.

Loeb described "the perfect standard" as an unfortunate mindset for those who want to make a change but feel restricted until they know everything about the issue. "You never know enough," Loeb said. "What does knowing enough mean? People say I'm not the one who gets involved - you could be that person."

After talking about topics pertaining to student interests, such as global warming and student loans being cut by Congress, Loeb asked students, "Can we do anything about it? Does our voice make a difference? Most say no - many think it's more than we can handle."

Loeb emphasized three points for those who are looking to be activists. The first was that change doesn't happen alone. A community is needed for support. Activists may feel alienated from society, he said, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Second, change is never accidental. A leap of faith and intention is needed - as an activist one should question: Who could our supporters and allies be?

Finally, Loeb stressed that one must continue to persist and keep going. Results may not be imminent but change will eventually happen.

Loeb proceeded with a few suggestions. While volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters or for a soup kitchen is great, students should also look at the bigger picture. If someone were to put time in at a homeless shelter, why wouldn't they ask why the people there are homeless? This suggestion seems heavy for the average college student just looking for some volunteer work, yet for the truly dedicated, Loeb's words struck home.

Leighann Cavanaugh, a sophomore, found herself inspired by the broader issues. "After getting involved with Livingston Cares and rebuilding the Gulf Coast, this justifies what I'm doing and makes me feel worthwhile," she said.

Loeb suggested that courage is the key for acting on an issue and bringing new people into the stream of involvement. He argued that the common student could have been the person who influenced Martin Luther King to act when he was so reluctant and unsure.

Loeb concluded his speech by encouraging listeners to keep laughing, even when dealing with difficult issues, savor every moment in the grace of the world, and to remember to take joy in gifts of the world - take time to rejuvenate oneself and go back with renewed spirits.

Senior Jen Delcourt took Loeb's encouraging words of wisdom to heart. "As a senior, I am more involved than I was in the past," she said. "Sometimes, I'll come home from 10-hour days and feel like I haven't done anything. It's nice to know that there are other people out there and I'm not the only one."

Loeb concluded his lecture in the same spirit with which he started. "Keep on doing work - don't be afraid - you'll see how much power you have."