These times call for more 'hopeaholics'

Published12/12/2008 12:02 AM

'Tis the season to be jolly.

Awaiting the imminent birth of our second grandchild, my wife and I are counting our blessings. Recession, the stock market decline, Mumbai - so many things to feel bad about, yet, as one of our friends put it on election eve, "You know what you are? You are a 'hope-aholic.'"


He was right.

That's why I got into higher education nearly three decades ago: because I believe that there is no better investment in our future - as individuals, as a nation, as a planet - than a great college education. And I have never lost my faith - although it has been tested many times - in the power of that investment to make this world a better place.

When I meet young people who are pessimistic or cynical, I give them a hard time. If there's one lesson I've learned in my 63 years, it's that if you provide students with a strong enough lever - and that's what a great college education is all about - they can move the world.

In the 1960s, I was a tutor in a project in Mississippi preparing the first group of African-American students to enter previously all-white schools, and, at age 22, I wasn't very good at it. I had all sorts of excuses, most of them involving my color. Then a great teacher from my college arrived. He was an "old guy," and like me, he was white. But within a few minutes, he had every kid in the project enthralled and engaged, excited to be learning. I realized that if those young people had had the benefit of teachers like him all their lives, their world - and ours - would be transformed.

We aren't there yet - far from it - but in this nation where talent and training can seize opportunity like nowhere else on this earth, the difference a great education can make has never been clearer.

So in this holiday season, I remain an optimist, a "hope-aholic," putting aside money for our grandchildren's education, working to ensure that the doors of opportunity remain open for all students at my college, despite these difficult economic times, confident that there is no better investment in our future than nurturing the minds and skills and character of those who will shape it.

Merry Christmas and all the best from North Central College.

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