Hundreds of first-year students of SUNY Old Westbury along with students from two high schools in New York City gathered to tell each other of their community service efforts while also learning about the life and impact of Mahatma Gandhi during the 2023 CALL Colloquy, titled “The Empowered Self and Community.”
The CALL Colloquy is the annual capstone to the efforts of the SUNY Old Westbury Community Action, Learning and Leadership program, the institution’s award-winning, comprehensive community engagement program the joins students' commitments to academic excellence, exploration and innovation joins with Old Westbury’s historic mission of actively seeking to engage and advance social justice in communities in the world around us.
Along with student presentations, the 2023 event also featured the inaugural speaker in the SUNY Old Westbury Gandhi Lecture Series, the Hon. Randhir Jaiswal, Consul General of India – New York.
“The theme for today’s conversation is social justice,” said Jaiswal in addressing the students. “One could not have thought of a more appropriate topic when celebrating Mahatma Gandhi. All his life, in his thought and action, social justice remained central to his existence and always intertwined with his politics.”
The Gandhi Lecture series was created as a component of the College’s Social Justice Lecture Series and is funded through the generosity of the Shanti Fund, a Long Island-based group of volunteers who work to promote the Gandhi quest for peace through the acquisition of knowledge.
“With all humility, I would assert that Mahatma Gandhi was among the most powerful voices seeking social justice that the modern world, and possibly the entire humanity, has seen,” said Jaiswal in his address. “We need more of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. We need to be guided by them. Mahatma Gandhi’s most famous quote: ‘My life is my message’ and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s words ‘I have a dream’ give us the confidence that a better world is possible!”
Throughout the colloquy, students reviewed the work they conducted, and lessons learned, through the community-based engagements they experienced, where an emphasis was placed on teamwork, community building, bridging divides across Long Island, the New York Region, nationally, globally and virtually.
Included in the program were students who engaged in CALL through early-college/high school courses offered at the Thurgood Marshall Academy and Frederick Douglass Academy, both located in Harlem, New York.
“All of you innovated ways to respond to the needs of others with cultural sensitivity,” Hugh Fox, director of the CALL program told the colloquy participants. “All of you reimagined a space of intersectionality to evolve a responsive paradigm to create stronger and more cohesive communities by emphasizing your role as students engaging in active participation through experiential education to advance the human condition for a more just, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable world. We couldn’t be prouder of you.”