Six weeks before matriculating at Dartmouth College I was mugged at gunpoint. A seemingly normal weekend night turned into a nightmare as a friend and I were assaulted a mere two miles from my house in Florida. My life changed that night as a stranger threw me on the concrete and placed a gun to my head. My guardian angel sat firmly on my shoulder that evening as the assailant and his accomplice stole my purse, but not my life.
I tell my girls to “always take God with you”. While the lesson wrapped up in those words holds many meanings, one of them dates back to that August evening in 1993.
My years at Dartmouth were a time of both healing and personal growth. Rural New Hampshire slowly brought back a sense of physical safety and ultimately l conquered the fear of walking across campus in the dark. I remained cautious, but the culture on campus helped me to find a healthy perspective and renewed my confidence.
Surrounded by intelligent and motivated students who held a great diversity of opinions, I was able to determine just “who Anne was”. This concurrently sharpened my intellect as well as broadened my perspective. I started my time at Dartmouth a “jock with emotional baggage”, but I ended it as a confident intellectual who held a strong sense of purpose.
This is the beauty of a liberal arts education on a well-structured college campus.
- A place where diversity is embraced allowing for the creation of mature thinkers with compassionate natures.
- A place where a blanket of respect protects each student’s Freedom of Speech and personal rights in the midst of intellectually stimulating debates.
- A place where students learn to recognize that life’s challenges do not define the individual, rather they are stepping stones for personal growth. This growth will, at times, bring discomfort but it also teaches perseverance.
Sometime during my tenure in Hanover, NH I figured out that I did not want to live my life as a victim — focusing on the past and allowing my heart to fill with discontent. Rather, I wanted to live my life as a humanitarian – seeking out the good in others and looking to the future with the desire to play a positive role on the ever important journey that we call life.
My alma mater found itself in the midst of controversy last week as a passionate student protest escalated to threaten the boundaries of respectful debate. My heart was saddened for a variety of reasons but perhaps the greatest was the apparent lack of inter-student respect on campus. Basic decency becomes lost when hatred toward a single ideology overtakes the value of compassion among individual classmates. Sadly, the second is sacrificed in the name of the first.
- I dream of a world where people are valued for what they hold in their hearts rather than the image that they see in the mirror.
- I dream of a world where people are lauded for the humanitarian work that their hearts empower their bodies to accomplish.
- I dream of a world where diversity of thought is celebrated — Where our young people relish eclectic virtues and use them to make the world a better place.
Life is both a privilege and a responsibility. We must always move forward mixing our passions with compassion so that what I dream of today will be a reality tomorrow. Unfortunately, there will always be unexplained acts of violence like that which occurred to me so many years ago. However, we can lessen the impact of those acts by recognizing one act of hatred does not rationalize another.