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Putting people first

| Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The theme of this year’s Human Development Conference at Notre Dame is “People, Power and Pragmatism: The Future of Development in Our Changing World.” Just like in the title of the conference, I believe that we need to put people first in the field of human development. Seemingly, this should not be a hard task for us.
In the era of globalization, we are more connected than ever to the world around us. Think of how much time we spend on our cell phones, e-mail, Twitter and Facebook (to name but a few). This technology ensures that we are always capable of being instantly connected to friends and family, whether they are a few feet from us or half a world away. In theory, we all should be masters of the art of relationships. Putting people first in relationships should be as natural as our impulse to check our e-mail inbox every time we open the laptop.
Human development should also come natural to us as students at the University of Notre Dame. Father Jenkins espouses the “distinctive mission” of Notre Dame to be a shining example of Christ’s love in the world through our service to humanity. Catholic Social Tradition provides us with the framework of how to live out of our faith as disciples of Jesus Christ. Principles such as the “life and dignity of the human person” and the “preferential option for the poor” are supposed to be the norm in all that we do. According to the University’s Mission Statement, the ultimate product of a Notre Dame education is the cultivation of a student with “a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.”
To me, it is clear that the mission of this University is inextricably linked to the field of human development. Both entities strive to place the dignity of each and every human being is at the center of all of our efforts in this world. This weekend, the Human Development Conference will feature 64 presenters who have conducted research in 14 fields of development in 43 countries. It is a tremendous opportunity to continue to develop the “disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many” that is at the center of the University’s mission.
For me, this weekend is also an opportunity to examine my own development as a human being. How are my own relationships? Is upholding the dignity of every human life the foundation of all my actions? Am I becoming the student that is described in our Mission Statement? Am I truly an example of Christ’s love in the world? When I am completely honest with myself, I always fall short of the answers that I would hope for. I would like to invite you to do your own examination this weekend. At the very heart of it all, the field of human development is a part of our “distinctive mission” to build the kingdom of God on earth. We must remember, however, that Jesus taught us that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Ultimately, authentic human development starts with me. In striving to be all that God calls me to be, I become “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:12) that exemplifies the call to selflessly “love one another” (John 13:35) in all that I do.
Human development is truly all about people. And it starts with you. Be the light of the world and start renewing the face of the earth.

Jeremy Tamargo is a senior
engineering major serving on the
conference committee. He can be
contacted at jtamargo@nd.edu
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.