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Misbehaved ones

Kamaria Porter | Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In the final stretch of my columnist career here at Notre Dame, I would like to take the opportunity for the second time to uplift some of the senior members of our community who have impacted this campus and taught me more of what it means to be a student of Our Lady’s University. Considering that we find ourselves in the last week of Women’s history month and in the presence of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, historian (as the best discipline in my opinion) and the coiner of the phrase, “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” I will be focusing on great women who have made history here and surely will in their career of life.

Jackie Clark is one of the first people I met at Notre Dame and I have had the real privilege to watch her develop and make trouble during her tenure. Second only to maybe Madonna in reinventing her look, Clark to me is a masterful risk taker. Before really knowing the result, she takes action. This in itself is rare, yet Clark couples her courage with social concern.

In her legacy stands the most interesting coat collection dorm competition, a campus wide sleep out for homelessness, food drop program for social services and a half marathon for charity. Clark has an imagination for making social action accessible for college students. Her work in social justice has also been stellar. As a leader in the Campus Labor Action Project, she speaks with a moral authority of the connection between our faith commitments and society’s problems.

Kaity Redfield is quite rightly one of our campus’s most competent and energetic leaders. At Notre Dame, some issues will drag you through the ringer. Her efforts in standing up against violence against women have been inspiring. I appreciate Redfield’s persistence in leading student groups on these issues even until her senior year. Her investment in challenging us on these issues is beyond popularity or filling a role. Redfield is disgraced by situations in which people cannot tell their stories of victimization nor seek adequate help and this anger fuels her action. I foresee that the changes the dialogue she has facilitated will make this campus better for all its daughters and sons.

Rhea Boyd gets most of my admiration for taking up an issue close to my heart. As many African American students could testify to, when I arrived here I knew that fitting in was not a possibility. Boyd has reasoned through a way to not only uplift the images and stories of minority students but also to invite majority students to enter conversation about cultures different from their own. Her push to create cultural competency is a tool that fits our role as an academic institution. We should value the amount of love, curiosity and care that Notre Dame students have for people as much as we do for books and intangible knowledge. Boyd realizes the potential of a university education to prepare people for life in diverse communities, not only a career.

Despite her double major, I cannot skip shining a light on Jess Collado. During her time here, she has really engaged the South Bend community, built relationships and done what most here in power fail to do – listen. Instead of presuming, she has taken the time to listen to community members on what concerns them and what they would like to take action on.

I have been privileged to go with Collado to community measures on heating deposits and community organizing against poverty. Also, her work here on through the Center for Social Concerns on youth and violence issues has been good to see. Collado shows us what our excellent training and concern for social issues could do in the community.

I could not leave this column without mentioning Julia Fitzpatrick. Her parking practices aside, I have really benefited from seeing how she integrates prayer with social reflection. Whether it was planning a social justice rally, going to the School of the Americas, talking about her experience in Egypt or canvassing for votes on Nov. 2, 2004, I have been glad to work with Fitzpatrick because of the confidence and care she brings to such work. In her actions, one can sense that something deeper than ideas drives her. I suspect it is her faith and commitment to human dignity. I am also refreshed by her study of Arabic and plans to work on something related to the Middle East – engaging the other for peace and understanding.

Women make great leaders, teachers and comrades. We are blessed here to have these and many more Notre Dame women who misbehave, take the lead and change our world. I am honored to have worked with these students and even more so to receive my degree in their company.

Kamaria Porter is a senior history major and is excited for today’s Provost Lecture. She would like to congratulate Paul Graham, who told her to apply for Viewpoint so long ago, on his wedding this weekend. She can be contacted at kporter@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.