Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Happy Birthday, Oberlin

Oberlin College, my alma mater, was founded this day in 1833. It admitted both African Americans and women in its first decade. It was a stop on the underground railroad and fervently abolitionist throughout the 19th century. I'm proud to have gone there for its history.

Also proud to have gone there for its current stance on things, which was sometimes on the crazy end of liberal, to the point of absurdity. We did encourage those planning protests for commencement that it would just be silly to have posters up explaining arm bands through color code. But a lot of good, principled people come out of Oberlin. An amazing number of clergy, too, considering how strongly secular it is. I personally found it to be a wonderful place to grow in faith because I wasn't in an echo chamber in which everyone held my viewpoint. I felt I earned my faith there. And was positively challenged in all sorts of ways.

"Learning and Labor" is its motto. Its teams are the "Yeomen" -- or "Yeowomen," which may explain why our sports teams are so terrible. (Except for Ultimate Frisbee.) But I think many of us imbibed the sense from that terrible mascot that we are supposed to work, actively work, not merely supervise. If there's one thing that's true about the Oberlin people I know, it's that we are not passive. We are active and involved, and I think that's what makes things change in the world.

Go, Yeomen! And -women.

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