Civil rights activist Andrew Young: A global experience doesn’t require leaving campus

Published: January 15, 2018
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Civil rights activist Andrew Young encouraged Auburn students to seek global experiences, even within the boundaries of Auburn, by engaging with international students who also attend the university. Young spoke Monday at Auburn's annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Breakfast.

"I guarantee you, you have as many different nationalities studying here at Auburn as you have in the United States," Young said. "All you have to do is have lunch once a week with someone from a different country and get to know them."

And it's not just Auburn students who can benefit from that advice—college students across the country have the opportunity to engage with people from other countries.

"You have the world in miniature on just about any American campus, and the best place to learn is from your own classmates," Young said. "Get to know people in your community and make an international opportunity out of what you have here. You can get an international education by engaging with people."

That communication and engagement—or lack thereof—Young said, is the biggest problem in our world. Young's solution? Communicating. Communicating with others and getting to know about other parts of the world is key for United States citizens, Young said.

"We've got to be prepared to know the world to lead the world," he said.

The former confidante to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., engaged in a question-and-answer session on a variety of topics with Auburn's Associate Provost and Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Taffye Benson Clayton as the keynote for the university's 2018 breakfast held Jan. 15 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center. The theme of this year's event was "Bridging the Gap: A Quest for Peace and Justice."

In seeking peace and justice, Young said anger is not the solution.

"Anger only stops you from thinking," he said. "Usually you're angry because someone else doesn't give you the respect you're entitled to."

To alleviate those feelings of anger, Young advised giving respect to others while educating them. And for those seeking change, Young reminded that change is inevitable.

"We have to work hard to keep up with our understanding of change, so even if we can't control it, we can keep pace with it," he said. "Invention and capital formation are going so fast—that's one of the strengths of a free enterprising country. You cannot tell right now what the next big thing will be."

Speaking to the future of America, Young said the country has to continue to be a world leader.

"Right now, it's leading technologically, it's leading in medicine and business," he said. "Interestingly enough, one of the reasons why it's leading in technology and business is because of immigrants that have come here from Europe and Asia who have brought new approaches. Steve Jobs, who developed the Apple brand and turned it over to Tim Cook, is the son of a Syrian refugee. So refugees are not bad; we're all refugees from somewhere whether we want to be or not, and that is one of the things that makes America great. We are not comfortable with that politically yet. We've got to catch our politics up to our science and our business."

Despite America's challenges, Young's message about the country was clear.

"This is the greatest nation on the face of the Earth and in the history of mankind," he said.

The annual breakfast also included an interpretive performance of Langston Hughes' poem "Let America be America Again" by the Mosaic Theatre Company, as well as presentations of scholarships and a service award by the East Alabama chapter of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Scholarship recipients are Cameryn Smith of Auburn High School, Kevin Hughes of Booker T. Washington High School and Reginald "Jamie" Lowe Jr., of Opelika High School. Sharon Tolbert, CEO of the Auburn Housing Authority, was presented with the Community Service Award.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.