As Seattle University students, we have been told that we are preparing to be leaders for a just and humane world. We have caught glimpses of what this means in a variety of settings—through classes that challenge us to apply the ethics we’re learning to global problems, through service-learning projects that encourage involvement with diverse communities, and through trips that send students around the globe to experience a variety of different cultures. A Seattle U graduate, I imagine, is a leader who incorporates social justice into daily life, professional and otherwise. But it wasn’t until reading about the hesitance of outside nations, including the U.S., to send help to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that this calling really struck home.
Many nations have sent support to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, but much of this support is being supplied by volunteer organizations like Doctors Without Borders. As a pre-med student, DWB is an organization that I have looked into. I have classmates who are just a few years from being the nurses or Marines directly involved in these crises. We are no longer at the age when we can sit in the comfort of our living rooms, listening to the death tolls on the news and using our imaginations to distance ourselves from the situation by remembering that West Africa is miles away. We are at the brink of becoming adults—adults with the capability to use the skills we’ve been learning to change lives in real time.
Like many people my age, I don’t know exactly how I’ll do this—whether as a doctor working to save lives, a researcher working to find a cure, or a policymaker fighting for the rights of people whose lives are considered less valuable because of race, nationality, or whatever else. What I’ve realized, however, is that in global crises such as the Ebola outbreak, I am fortunate enough to have the option to distance myself from these problems. But as soon-to-be Seattle U graduates, we are also fortunate enough to have the choice to contribute to solutions if we choose, and this is the choice I plan to make. Because if we don’t, then who will?