On Kindness and Making a Difference

As we bring the celebration of Diversity Week at MCCC to a close. I wanted to share with my readers some excerpts of a talk I gave earlier this week. I was honored and privileged to have been invited again this year to speak at the MLK Day Celebration event at La-Z-Boy headquarters. I was the speaker last year and focused on Dr. King and community service. This year I focused on kindness and making a difference.

I quote and paraphrase parts of my talk below:

“As we observe Dr. King’s birthday as a holiday, I encourage all of us to observe it as a day of reflection and a day of service, i.e. “a day on, not a day off”. On campus it is ‘a day off for a week on’”

Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

How can you make your corner of the world just a little brighter for other people?

Be kind, care. Here are few quotes about kindness and making a difference

“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”-
Mark Twain

“Be kind to unkind people – they need it the most.” – Ashliiegh Brilliant

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo F. Buscaglia

“Kindness is never wasted. If it has no effect on the recipient, at least it benefits the bestower.” – S. H. Simmons

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.” – Robert F. Kennedy

What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world is and remains immortal. – Albert Pine

“You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.” – Jimmy Carter

“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa

“Service to others is the rent you pay for living on this planet.” – Marian Wright-Edelman

I provided them with the following advice:

  • Think beyond just you and yours.
  • Find a cause that you so believe in that you are willing to dedicate hands-on time to it.
  • Find organizations that you are willing to support financially and just give.
  • If you have a special talent, share it with others.

I told several stories about kindness and making a difference.  Most of the stories were personal and involved kindness that others had shown toward me.  I then asked them to write down how they were making a difference for others and how they could do more for others. Several individuals reported out to the group.

Special thanks to Sue Vanisacker of La-Z-Boy for inviting me to share my thoughts with them. I truly hope it makes a difference.




African Immigrants have a Higher Educational Attainment than any Other Group in the U.S.

I was disappointed to hear that our president had referred to Haiti and African countries and their immigrants in unflattering terms. Unfortunately, like many others, he is ignorant (lacks knowledge) of the facts. I see this as a teachable moment for our president and the general public. I write this, not because I am an African immigrant, but primarily because I am an educator who feels compelled to educate the general public about this and set the record straight. Below are a few salient facts about African immigrants and their educational attainment.

I focus here on sub-Saharan Africa, which consists primarily of black African nations, south of the Sahara Desert. This would include countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa, and would exclude countries such as Egypt, Morocco and Algeria. My data and facts are from the U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 ACS. Please feel free to fact check me.  To provide the background context, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, 1.7 million sub-Saharan Africans lived in the U.S., accounting for 4 percent of the 43.3 million immigrants in the United States. Sub-Saharan Africans made up 83 percent of the 2.1 million immigrants to the U.S. from Africa, the remainder coming from North Africa. The flow of sub-Saharan Africans consists of skilled professionals, individuals seeking reunification with relatives, and refugees from war-torn countries.

In 2015, 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africans came from Eastern and Western Africa, with Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa comprising the top sending countries. Together, these five countries accounted for more than 54 percent of all sub-Saharan Africans in the United States.

Now, to my key point. Again, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, sub-Saharan African immigrants have much higher educational attainment compared to the overall foreign- and native-born populations. In 2015, 39 percent of sub-Saharan Africans (ages 25 and over) had a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 29 percent of the total foreign-born population and 31 percent of the U.S.-born population. Nigerians and South Africans were the most highly educated, with 57 percent holding at least a bachelor’s degree, followed by Kenyans (44 percent), Ghanaians (40 percent), Liberians (32 percent), and Ethiopians (29 percent).

It is important for all of us, in this great nation of immigrants, to be keenly aware of the contributions of our immigrant population. The United States is the greatest country in the world today because of immigrants, and according to a recent SEMCOG report, the state of Michigan will only grow over the next several years because of our immigrant population. Let’s get the facts so we can speak from a position of knowledge and not ignorance.

Hoping for a Better 2018

The year 2017 was an especially difficult year all around the world and for some of us personally. There were earthquakes, devastating hurricanes, refugee crises, and other man-made and natural disasters. The year 2018 has begun with terrible winter weather conditions in the U.S., other man-made and natural disasters around the world, and now mudslides which have claimed so many lives in the United States.

As you read this, please just pause and observe a moment of silence in memory and honor of those who have been affected by these disasters and unfortunate events. Please join me as we keep those impacted by these events in our thoughts and prayers.  While some of these occurrences are unavoidable, I for one, am praying and hoping for a better 2018.