At the intersection of morality and public policy, senior Ben Brown suggests listening as a means to a more just society.
“I’m just really passionate about social justice; that’s why I study religion and political science,” Brown said. “I’m a Lutheran Christian, so that’s where my understanding of social justice comes from.” In a just society, “everyone has equal opportunity, everyone is treated fairly.”
Activism, as it were, is a way to move toward this ideal.
“I think that’s activism: to take part in undoing injustice,” he said, whether that participation takes form as a letter to congress, a protest or a social media campaign.
“I feel like I always wanted to be an activist,” Brown said. “Activism can be out on the streets or it can be in the classroom, or with your neighbor or on the bus; it can be literally anywhere: you’re just storytelling. Education is a huge part.”
In fact, the stories of his parents’ and grandparents’ public activity inspired a young Brown to notice the social problems around him and “be a part of the solution.” Likewise, although he had always identified as a passionate person, his time at Witt and as a public policy intern with the Lutheran Volunteer Core in Washington D.C. further refined Brown’s public passion.
“Now, I feel like I know what to be passionate about and how to express myself,” he said. In encountering a disagreement, “[y]ou don’t jump to conclusions; you get deeper and you wait.”
Being involved in community service and campus ministries taught Brown the importance of not alienating and vilifying people in trying to create social justice, and, specifically from Pastor Tune, how to be “intentionally inclusive.”
In talking about his time here: “There was definitely a lot of personal growth and change and formation … figuring out who [I am] and how who [I am] fits into the world … [a] very positive four years, for sure,” he said.
So, in nearing the end of his undergraduate studies, what does he think the world needs?
“I really think it needs more love, understanding and communication,” Brown said. “Before I can say I disagree with you, I need to understand what you believe and why you believe it.”
For this, we’d have to know how to engage in conversations, talk about our faiths not necessarily in evangelical ways and “communicate who [we] are and [our] beliefs in a way that comes across with love and understanding,” Brown said.
One step toward meeting this need?
“Know when to listen and know when to speak,” he said. “Know when to listen to someone you disagree with, and know when to challenge.”
Is this social justice possible?
“I think so,” Brown said. “That’s where I’m at right now. I’m a very optimistic, positive kind of person/social justice seeker. I don’t get involved with something unless I believe it’s going to happen or I think we can achieve it.”