Columns, Opinions

Secondo ’16 GS: A homecoming meditation

By
Staff Columnist
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

During my second semester as an undergraduate, it clicked. Brown is more than a place of learning; it is also an idea: a celebration of free inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge deployed in service of making our world a better place. Born from countless people, values and aspirations, it is a dynamic collection of layers that are ever accumulating, subject to the course of over 250 years of history. Like Earth’s geological strata that progressively build upon each other, the Brown of today stands on the Brown of yesterday to shape the Brown of tomorrow. Archeological philosophy aside, I found this realization profound, and it shaped how I saw myself in relation to Brown and in turn its relation to me. Brown is a part of my identity, and I am a part of it. This symbiosis is not temporarily commercialistic, but perpetually mutualistic.

For us who are lucky to call ourselves Brunonians, we are stewards of this idea of Brown, tasked to carry it with us throughout life beyond College Hill. No different than the expectation of living a life of usefulness and reputation, this responsibility is easier said than done. Lofty? Sure. Highfalutin? Slightly. But whether we like it or not, our lives are woven into the fabric of Brown, layered into its history and embodying the very idea we convey to our communities. In the seeds we plant and the dreams we manifest, Brown thrives. If we fail to believe or practice its ethos, it erodes.

When I first graduated from Brown during the sunset of Pax Obama, my class was sent off into the golden hour with parting words to be constructively irreverent, embracing our Brown spirit to be forces of good in the world. At the time, our country lived in blissful complacency while watching a disturbing insurgency play out before us. A mounting danger to the status quo emerged from anger and displacement coupled with huckster opportunism and now-confirmed criminality. The vocal majority dismissed this threat as a fleeting phenomenon. Yet overnight, the tragicomedy became reality. The rosy veneer crashed under the tumultuous undertow from a perfect storm long brewing in blue-collar homes, fringe media and dark-money conservative circles; all it took was the right people to unleash it.

Returning to Brown against the backdrop of our current climate made me revisit my role as a steward of the idea of Brown. In the aftermath of 2016, the values, norms and standards I practiced and believed in at Brown appeared to have lost worth in a world newly disrupted by forces of unconstructive upheaval. But in picking up the pieces, we have since found a revitalized appreciation for the norms that hold the world together and the values that bring people together. Though the tenets of progress, decency and civic virtue in the name of a free and open world may have wobbled, they have far from toppled. The idea of Brown is no different.

The idea of Brown today must be carried with greater vigor and passion than ever before. Against the tides of corrosiveness and maleficence, Brown is a resolute pillar of promise that inspires the better angels of our nature to take action. Perhaps more than just stewards, we are its faithful practitioners, the proud standard-bearers of a belief that the power of knowledge and discovery is stronger than intolerance and isolation. We are the next leaders and change-makers armed with the wisdom and constructive irreverence to foster human progress and goodness. We build bridges while tearing down walls. Where there is darkness, we shed light. Where there is ignorance, we share truth. Where there is fear, we inspire hope. This is our charge. We are Brunonians, and our world is worth fighting for.

Reid Secondo ’16 GS can be reached at reid_secondo@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.