Civilly engaging Ms. Talbot-Ross

Civility, as defined by my trusty friend Google, is “the formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.”  Now, being civil can be equated with many things, one of those being a participation in civic engagement. In a recent panel that the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement hosted surrounding civility in American Politics, the discussion turned toward how young people, such as students at Colby, could get involved and help combat the “my way or the highway mentality” that has worked itself into Maine politics and common life. This mentality, according to the panel consisting of former state senators, professors, church leaders, and civil rights representatives, has led to a detached, nastier society. In their eyes, a society in which it is okay to slander someone over social media or, as in politics, a TV ad, without repercussions makes way for unabashed incivility in everyday life.

The discussion between the panelists boiled down to the actions that students could take to become civically engaged and fight against this self-serving culture.  They theorized that engagement in politics and the broader community would lead to the most change. At Colby, we pride ourselves as being involved students, whether that be in sports, clubs, or by any of the other million ways Colby students are involved. I believe that it is safe to say that Colby students are engaged with the community in a positive manner. During the panel, President of the Portland chapter of the NAACP Rachel Talbot-Ross grossly misrepresented Colby students by “respectfully” grouping us with the general stereotype that the millennial generation is uninvolved, self-centered, and uninterested in our communities. She harped on the point that in Maine, students are not fulfilling their civic duty of involving themselves and giving back to the community.

Ms. Talbot-Ross, I “respectfully” disagree with your outlandish statement. It is amazing that someone has the guts to tell a room full of students, at a panel hosted by the Goldfarb Center for Civic Engagement, that we are less civil because we are supposedly not civically engaged. It was probably one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve ever heard a sober person say here at Colby.

I would like to start by pointing out to Ms. Talbot-Ross just a sampling of the few ways Colby students and the Colby community are engaged in making the surrounding area a better place. Colby Cares About Kids is the most successful regional mentoring program in the state of Maine and possibly the greater Northeast. It connects hundreds of Colby students with kids throughout the surrounding area, providing the children with mentors and friends who guide them through some of the toughest times in life. The Colby Volunteer Center sponsors over twenty programs ranging from working in an animal shelter to reading to children to free SAT lessons for underprivileged high school students. Hardy Girls Healthy Women allows young girls to have strong female role models to look up to and empower them to grow into the women leaders of tomorrow. These are just a few examples of the ways in which Colby students are engaged with the community.

We, as a student body, work to promote good citizenship in all of our community outreach. Waterville is our home and we want our home to be the best place possible. Well over 1,000 students are engaged civically through the many programs that Colby offers to its students. If over 50% of the student body participating in community outreach programs does not satisfy your definition of an engaged campus, then I “respectfully” say that you are an idealist who fails to account for the circumstances surrounding college students. Students, especially ones at rigorous institutions such as Colby, are juggling schoolwork, social life, jobs, and extracurricular activities. We lead a life where time is always the enemy. The fact that the majority of students take time out of their days to improve their community by volunteering, mentoring or tutoring proves that we greatly value the future of our community.

The level of engagement of a Colby student is not unique; millions of college students across America are involved in community outreach programs. We, as a generation, are not the stereotypical millennials that the older generations have painted us out to be.  We are politically concerned, civically engaged and truly want to make our communities better places. Ms. Talbot-Reed, I recommend that you come visit Colby again and participate in some of our civic engagement programs: shadow a CCAK mentor, help wash dishes at the local animal shelter or serve meals at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter. Maybe they will match your standards.