Global Program Scholar-In-Residence: Serve with Courage, Forgiveness, Love

Read the original post, from the Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, here.

Seniors in the Program for Global Citizenship presented their innovative Capstone Projects Tuesday night, Elizabeth Kendrick ’16 spoke of her Global experience, and Scholar-in-Residence Valarie Kaur capped off two days on campus with an inspirational Global Citizenship Lecture in the Fine Arts Building.

Kaur, a multitalented worker for social justice, is an author, MSNBC commentator, civil rights lawyer, award-winning filmmaker, and young mother, but she does not let her roles define her. And in her talk, “The Hot Winds of the World Cannot Touch You,” she encouraged students pursuing the path of global service to resist letting others define them, too.

“What has always worked for me is the idea of harmony,” Kaur said. “One note is as a filmmaker, one is as a writer, a lawyer, a mother… If I can hit all of the notes, then I will have a symphony. Don’t let anyone tell you what your own song is.”

Kaur also advised students to step out of their comfort zones. “When you graduate from high school, they’ll tell you to go out and change the world, to make a difference. But they won’t tell you how dangerous it might be,” she explained. “You have made this decision to walk this path. But the temptation to stay within your walls, safe and comfortable, and live a life of privilege will grow stronger when you are no longer secured by incredible teachers who tell you what it takes to go out on that path.

“Think of yourself as a hero in your own story,” she suggested, “and what is before you is an adventure. Then it’s possible to walk that path of service, with love as your compass.”

Love was a common theme in Kaur’s keynote speech, which recounted her own journey from being a young, American Sikh woman terrified of resembling the face of the enemy after 9/11, to the dynamic activist she has become—founder of Groundswell Movement, the nation’s largest multi-faith, online organizing community, and a Media and Justice Fellow at Stanford Law School.

“If you face the hot winds of the world with love, those hot winds will not touch you,” she said repeatedly.

Kaur is known for utilizing storytelling for social change, and during her keynote address, she recommended that Holy Innocents’ students share their own stories with others. “Stories break down walls between us and have the power to change the world.”

Kaur also answered questions from HIES students she had encountered during her two days on campus.

Where do you start with global service? “You find love in yourself; it begins there.”

How do you find your calling? “There will be plenty of people who tell you what you should do. But your job is to go to the places that are silent enough to hear your own heart speaking. Listen and go where your deepest longing meets the world’s needs.”

How can you be so brave? “My grandfather told me, ‘Courage is fear that has said its prayers.’ You have enough love to make you brave. You are holy heroes that your teachers have equipped to be the global leaders in this world. The only thing left to do is to connect with the bravery already within you.” (Quote originally from the 1921 poem “Courage” by Karle Wilson Baker.)

How do you avoid anger and bitterness? “We are inheritors of structures of violence not of our own making … you will be up against people who will want to hate you. Your job is to forgive them. And then go after the systems of injustice … Forgiveness is freedom from hate.”

At the end of her talk, Kaur “anointed” the senior class. “When you breathe, you take in as many molecules as stars in the known universe,” she said. “May your spirit soar with wonder as you sense your oneness with all things.

“You are holy heroes, and you are going to go out and do amazing things.”