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The simple lie

Ken Fowler | Friday, August 24, 2007

For 18 years, many people – probably friends are the majority – have fed you a lie. Perpetuated primarily by the young, the falsehood inflicts indiscriminately. Its strength is its simplicity: You can’t change the world, you can’t shape the future, you can’t make a difference.

But if you failed to detect the untruths in simple arguments, you wouldn’t be here today. And if you don’t believe you can change the world, Notre Dame isn’t the place for you.

Seven blocks from a four-lane road overlooking the sea of peace and only one from the pathway of posh is a pristine church called St. Monica’s in a city by (roughly) the same name.

Cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway two days before starting a summer internship in Los Angeles, I had mapped out the parish for 5:30 p.m. Mass on a 70-degree Saturday. It was a chance encounter, or so I thought.

Dressed for success in lacrosse shorts and a T-shirt one size too small, I was the outcast visitor, imposing on a celebration with soloists fit for West L.A. and arches that reach for the oh-so-tangible stars.

Then the pastor flipped the switch on the digital projector in lieu of a homily, and sound waves from a familiar voice vibrated in my ear. I peered at the screen, and my eyes did not dare belie my ears. Father Bob Dowd – to me, Professor Dowd – was narrating a 12-minute compilation of still photos with an explanation of the importance of St. Monica’s sponsorship of a parish in Kenya. It was a message from a voice, and I’d heard them in conjunction before. It took me a while to be sure, but my hunch that it was Father Bob’s voice was right.

If you’re lucky enough to meet Father Bob, you’ll never be able to communicate fully who he is. To paraphrase what alumni say about Notre Dame, there aren’t enough words to explain just how good of a person he is, but once you meet him, there are too many words that come to mind to pass on what you’ve gained from your relationship. He’s the Notre Dame Millennium Development Initiative (NDMDI) director and an assistant professor of political science.

He’s been the point man on that project, which Notre Dame hopes will rejuvenate a village and its faith. The millennium development goals, pushed forth worldwide by the United Nations, resonate with him and a lot of faculty on campus. And they want Notre Dame to be a part of making things happen in improving the quality of life worldwide.

That kind of idealistic thought, that commitment to service, is something you’ll find prevalent here over the next four years. And even if you stripped away the gold flakes adorning the dome, the bricks supporting Notre Dame Stadium and the mural affixed to the Hesburgh Library, there’s still a lot to love about this school. Your task is to find those things, and make them even more prevalent.

During the next four years, you’ll get to know that Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves is the second-most respected person on campus, behind only Father Hesburgh. You’ll discover that Charlie Weis’ malapropisms – like when he said Rhema McKnight “is kinda like a la David Givens” – can be terribly insightful and awfully hysterical. And you’ll realize that there isn’t a thing in this world you can’t achieve with resolve, passion and faith.

And there isn’t a better place to discover that than here.

Ken Fowler is a political science major from Long Beach, N.Y., home to 3.5 miles of pristine white sand, decades of corruption and so many bars that Newsday called it the new “Margaritaville.” He has an unusual affection for the music of Edwin McCain and the Goo Goo Dolls. Oh, and Derek Jeter. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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