“Engaging the World through Discussion and Understanding” by Devin Quinn '12
Photo by Heather Shelley
2012 Baccalaureate Speeches
Over the past four years, Dickinson College has taught me many things both as a college student and as a cadet in Dickinson’s Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, but one experience truly stands out as the most quintessential Dickinsonian “Engage the World” moment.
Toward the end of spring semester junior year I was working late in Rector one Sunday night when someone turned on the TV, and President Obama was announcing the death Osama bin Laden. “OK …” I thought and didn’t really think much else of it, except that I hoped that this wasn’t going to put me out of a job. I went back to work. Around 11 pm I started heading back to the ROTC house, where I lived. As I walked past Morgan field I noticed a gathering of students cheering and singing patriotic songs. I paused for a moment to watch. Of course this celebration paled in comparison to those in front of the White House, in New York City, or even at Penn State, but it made me think, “Wow, this is a bigger deal than I had thought.” When I got back to my house, it was alive with revelry. I decided to drop my backpack off in my room before joining my friends downstairs but I was shocked at what I found when I opened the door to my room. Someone had broken into our house and slipped flyers under our doors accusing ROTC of being fascists and anti-Muslim. Later I learned these flyers were hung up all around campus. In the days that followed a video surfaced on YouTube that implicated ROTC in organizing and starting the celebration of Bin Laden’s death.
My friends and I didn’t know what to do about this. Using the discourse and reason that I had been taught here at Dickinson I decided the best thing to do would be to make a response video. Instead of attacking those who posted the negative video, my video would extend an olive branch and open a dialogue between us and our accusers. In my video I denounced the blind accusations against ROTC as unbecoming of a Dickinsonian and I called for a conversation between ROTC and our accusers so that we could examine each other’s viewpoints and understand where these misplaced feelings of animosity were coming from. The accusers were never known, but quickly removed their video from YouTube.
What happened next, however, was truly one of the finest examples of engaging the world in a constructive way that I have seen in my four years here at Dickinson. The next week two other members of Dickinson ROTC and I were invited to sit down with a diverse group of students and faculty to discuss the different reactions to the events on campus following the death of Osama bin Laden. The discussion was cordial, with many different perspectives and issues raised. One administrator even asked us to each discuss the issues from a perspective different than our own. By gaining these new perspectives we were all able to better understand the different reactions to the events. We all left the meeting with a greater understanding of each other’s opinions, even if we did not necessarily agree.
The fact that we even came together as a community and had this discussion, and other discussions such as the ones about sexual assault on campus, is a great example of what it truly means to engage the world as a Dickinsonian by understanding and being sympathetic to other people’s different opinions and beliefs.
As I leave these limestone walls, I will be entering into the United States Army, an organization that engages the world in very real ways every day. My Dickinson education has truly prepared me to be an officer of the future by teaching me the intellectual tools I need to understand other cultures and the ability to work with others toward a common goal. As you go forth to start your lives, don’t ever forget the incredible lessons you have learned here, the value of hard discussion and dialogue, and try every day to engage in conversation with those who will broaden your perspectives.