Sometimes the world is a little bit hard to take. This last week has been one of those weeks when all the news seemed to be bad. It began with the awful news that Whitworth had lost a good friend and a bright light when former athletics director Aaron Leetch was killed in a plane crash. Aaron's death was even more poignant (to this sports fan, anyway) because he was returning from that mecca of college athletics directors – the NCAA Div. I Men's Basketball Championship Game, held this year in Indianapolis.
Then there were the stories of toddlers shooting themselves with their parents' guns, of police officers shooting unarmed suspects and lying about it, as well as all the usual disturbing news – presidential hopefuls spouting the type of nonsense that becomes boilerplate during the run-up to primary season; dire, prophetic warnings of current and impending climate change; harrowing photos of the effects of the California drought; bulletins from Afghanistan and Iraq, where life is still ineffably dangerous; articles about the widening of the earnings gap between the 1 percent and those who work hard for minimum wage.
This is tough stuff to read and hear. Sometimes it makes us want to ignore the news, to plunge into a world in which our lives are impervious to the foibles of others and to the tragedies that surround us every day. A world in which we're responsible only for ourselves. And you're probably thinking that I'll now tell you how Whitworth's education of mind and heart brings comfort and joy amidst all of the clamor. But that's not what I want to say, even though there's much evidence that it's true.
I want to pinpoint instead the work of Bryan Stevenson, a man who decided early in his life that he wanted to help people who had been unjustly convicted of crimes, to explore and address racial bias in the criminal justice system, and to advocate for poor prisoners and for those with mental and developmental challenges. He wanted to develop community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.
Stevenson holds a lifelong belief in the rightness of attempting to address wrongs committed against others. He has won a slew of awards, including a MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and Stanford Law School's National Public Service Award, and he spoke at TED2012 and received two standing ovations during his speech. But if no one had noticed his work, if he had received no praise, no money, no encouragement, one gets the sense that he would still be doing what he believes in. He would still be changing lives, saving lives, and doing everything he could to make our prison system more accountable and more equitable to those who are already bucking the odds in American society.
I hope you'll read and enjoy the Q&A with Stevenson in this issue. His words serve as an introduction to his work, and his work opens doors for those of us who are beaten down by bad news and ready to try to make the world a better place. It's a message that enthralled and inspired Whitworthians, and I hope that you, too, will find it both captivating and encouraging.
I hope, too, that you enjoy this issue of Whitworth Today.