Rachel Pearson’s story of bravery and perseverance has inspired many, including TCNJ’s Freshman class as her memoir served as our summer reading book for this year. For Community Learning Day on Sept. 27th, TCNJ brought Pearson to campus to speak to students. I had the amazing opportunity to attend and thought I should share some of Pearson’s inspiring story and advice for college students.
The title of Pearson’s speech coincided with TCNJ’s intellectual theme for this year, Who We Are. Pearson’s memoir about her coming-of-age experience in the medical field brought to the table many issues facing our world today, such as race, gender, class, and various social issues. Pearson is currently a resident at Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, although she spent a significant portion of her career in Galveston, Texas, where issues with race and class have affected the medical system tremendously.
Pearson’s main message through the speech was that we make our own path in life and we decide who we are. Despite living in a world that is currently “fractionated by hatred and war,” as Pearson put it, we have the power to find meaning and purpose in life.
As I mentioned before, Pearson’s book brings up many social and political issues facing our world today. What I found most interesting about Pearson’s speech was how she admitted that we all suffer from being bias. It is inevitable that our identities make us feel different. Identity helps us find our place in the world and shows us who we can become. But instead of focusing on these differences, Pearson spoke of how we need to find our similarities so we can work together to make the world a better place. A phrase Pearson referenced many times was a quote from a poem by John Donne, “We are all involved in mankind.” So despite not knowing what the future will hold, we do know that mankind will be affected and therefore everyone shares that.
So as we all experience large periods of change over these next few years, let us remember Pearson’s story and advice. Let us embrace our differences, but find common ground. Let us seek out experiences that will teach us something. Let us use our voices and learn to argue for what we believe is right. Above all, let us be who we want to be.