Written by Maria Koppelberger. Media by Sean McFarland.
I knew I was in for a treat as I gazed across the faces of the students and faculty gathered at the Fireside Chat held on the evening of Tuesday, September 17. The smell of smoke wafted through the air and fire flickered while we settled in for an intimate conversation with Dr. Theresa Holden. President Ivan Filby – dressed noticeably more casual than usual, GCSA President Nathan Hood, Dean of Students Norm Hall, and a mix of upper- and lowerclassmen were in attendance for the required Constitution Day conversation. Required? Yes, every school is legally obligated to publically acknowledge and discuss the United States Constitution on Constitution Day.
Dr. Holden opened the conversation with a few remarks on the U.S. Constitution. She reminded us that this document reflects who we are as a people. It reveals our biggest flaws and our strongest values. The Constitution is a living, breathing document that changes as we read it and interpret it. Dr. Holden passed around a copy of the document so we could see what the original looks like. Throughout the conversation, Dr. Holden enlightened students and faculty alike on the significance of the document central to the American government.
After discussing the Constitution, she opened the conversation to questions from students. Nathan Hood asked her to discuss the sustainability and benefits of short-term mission trips and Dr. Holden began her response with a beautiful story. She created the service learning program at St. Louis University, which linked college students with an after-school inner-city program. The program helped elementary students build self-confidence by teaching them bike repair skills and students received a bike of their own for participating in the program. The children in the after-school program grew attached to the college students, but at the end of the semester, the college kids left because they had finished their course. Both the SLU students and the children benefitted from the semester, but the separation at the end of the program was very difficult for the children. Unfortunately, this only reinforced a harsh reality of their lives: most people do not care enough about them to stick around. So, overall, is a short-term “mission” like this one worthwhile? It depends on how you look at it. When engaging in short-term acts of service, Dr. Holden encourages us to keep our focus on those we are serving, so we can serve them to the best of our ability.
Dr. Holden revealed her biggest passion when she turned the conversation to African American history and the story of Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin. Josephine was the daughter of one of seven bi-racial couples in Boston, Mass during the early nineteenth century. African American and White women struggled to abolish the bi-racial marriage ban in Massachusetts, risking everything they had in order to achieve greater social justice. The stories of these women and others like them have taught Dr. Holden that it’s not enough to just sit at home and say what we think. As the fireside chat drew to a close, she challenged students and faculty at the fireside chat to proclaim our beliefs publically, no matter the cost, so that we may change the world for the better.
Video by The Heritage Foundation.