Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Big Change

I was talking today with a friend who spent about a week of his winter break on a service trip. He went to the Honduras with Global Medical Brigades to help deliver medical care to rural areas. He asserted that it was in fact the best week of his life.

The one thing he said that stuck with me, though, was about how UC Berkeley really is unique as a foundation for change. The people on the brigade came from various majors, though many of them were, like me, in the Global Poverty & Practice minor. And they all managed to raise money and supplies, go somewhere where help was needed, and do something to change both their own world and that of the people they helped.

You look around here, in America, and where do you find names from Berkeley? Well, it's a prestigious university. They're teaching as professors, arguing the law in their own firms, heading biotech companies, making money as venture capitalists. And maybe you actually see more people from Ivy League colleges in those positions.

So where are they? A large portion of the people running the Global Brigades programs were Berkeley graduates.They're not quite so visible as a Harvard-educated President or a pair of Stanfordian internet entrepreneurs, but they're out there working on improving the lots of people whom we the privileged continually forget.

They have counterparts in organizations around the world. They're the ones who are going to bring about the Millennium Development Goals and save the environment one plastic bag at a time. And they learned it here, they either gained or strengthened the drive to help here, at Berkeley. It's amazing to think that these people I'm meeting, my friends and classmates, will soon be out there making the difference themselves, and bringing Berkeley's spirit of social change to the world.

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