Loyola University Chicago

New Student Convocation

3 ways to set the world on fire

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Award-winning journalist and author Wil Haygood gave the keynote address at this year's New Student Convocation. In his speech, he gave the Class of 2021 his advice for meeting today's challenges.

3 ways to set the world on fire

Lessons from Wil Haygood at New Student Convocation 2017

"There's no time better than right now to be undertaking a Jesuit education." 

These are the profound words of this year's New Student Convocation speaker, Wil Haygood, who is also the author of the 2017 Loyola University Chicago First-Year Text, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination that Changed America. The awarding-winning journalist and author shared his lessons on how Loyola's thousands of new freshmen and transfer students should start their college careers. 

He told students that the principles of a Loyola education should empower them and support them as they navigate and process the current events in our country, especially what he called the "horrific incidents" in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

"The things that you must honor, such as faith, social justice, seeking God in all things, diversity, men and women for others, all of these themes are going to carry us beyond the present pain that we are experiencing," he said. 

Haywood expressed his gratitude that students are reading his book, Showdown, at this point in our nation's history. He also offered students guidelines on how they can tackle today's pressing issues. 

1. Exercise the right to vote
"You're here. You're 18. You can vote. Exercise the vote. You'll begin to play a role in the destiny of this nation."

2. Show empathy
When his great-nephew started his first day of kindergarten and saw a fellow classmate crying, Haygood's nephew told his classmate: "It's going to be okay." We should never forget the power of understanding what others are feeling.

3. "Be Barbara Ross"
In reference to Showdown, Haygood read from a 1967 letter that a young woman named Barbara Ross wrote to Senator John McClellan of Arkansas, who sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during Thurgood Marshall's US Supreme Court nomination hearings. Ross, who was black, encouraged McClellan, who was white, to judge Marshall's candidacy on his merits, not his color. At the end of her letter, she told McClellan that one of these days there would be a black president, predicting the election of Barack Obama.

After reading the letter, Haygood told students that Ross was just 19 years old at the time and full of life, similar to them, and she stood up for righteousness and justice at the right time. With that, he encouraged the new Ramblers to do the same and left them with his final tip:

"Class of 2021, you are Barbara Ross."

Learn more about Wil Haygood, the first year text, or New Student Convocation