This is the beginning

Shelley Blundell

I sat for hours pondering all the words of brilliance I could possibly impart in my final column of the semester. I looked at page after page of influential quotes, anecdotal accounts of “end times” stories and listened to the countless vignettes of friends who have graduated or are about to graduate.

And let me tell you, I didn’t learn a bloody thing from them.

I think the primary reason I had such a hard time listening to the “wisdom and experience” of others is that I have worked my proverbial behind off to accumulate my own source of knowledge.

So instead of telling you all the reasons you should be grateful to be in college, or push some sappy advice-filled column on you, ask yourself this: What do you think you’ve learned this semester?

I can tell you some of the things I’ve learned. I have learned that HIV is one of the leading causes of death among Americans aged 25 to 44. I’ve learned that two out of five teen deaths in the United States are the result of a motor vehicle crash. I have learned that people who speak a foreign language stand to earn 2-3 percent higher salaries than their coworkers. I have learned that only one in four Americans can name more than one right in the First Amendment. I’ve learned that the Library of Congress distributes a Braille edition of Playboy. I have learned that anyone involved with Kent State, no matter how small the involvement, feels quite strongly on issues such as race and sexual offenders. And I have learned that most people feel bad manners negatively affect staff morale.

Maybe some of these things are less than interesting to some of you, but to me (and, more importantly, to my editor) they were interesting enough to turn into columns. Some of these columns have produced letters of thanks and appreciation, some have produced support and consensus and some have produced anger, misunderstanding and masses of hate mail.

But I will tell you one thing: I would not change any of it for one second. Because perhaps the most valuable thing I have learned this semester is the value of involvement.

Too often, people are content to sit by the wayside and watch their rights and freedoms be trampled on under the guise of “making America safe for Americans” or “necessary Homeland Security measures.” While I understand the irreversible effects of Sept. 11 on America as a whole, I cannot believe the legislation of intrusion and blatant spying in some cases is right. It’s not what the founders of the United States fought for, and it is not what so many have died for.

And so I urge you: Don’t be complacent. Fight for what you believe in. I know I said I wasn’t going to get all advice-giving and sappy, but I try to live this in my own life, as well. Abraham Lincoln once said: “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” Although this is not my homeland, I now consider America a very real and precious part of my life and would not trade any of my experiences here for anything – may your final days of the spring semester of 2006 bring you peace, luck and happiness, and provide a steadfast foundation for those of you returning in the fall.

As they say in Zulu, hamba kahle — go well.

Shelley Blundell is a senior magazine journalism and history major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].