One year ago I wrote a blog post about the One Love Rally. I talked about how, inexplicably perhaps, I felt like something had shifted about the culture at Western. Today, having experienced a second Orientation Week with the One Love Rally, I am still somewhat tentative to proclaim Western to be a fully accepting campus, but I will say that the students are working hard to make this dream a reality. On Wednesday night I witnessed a crowd of close to 6000 first years, sophs and residence life staff show up to an event that many see as a difficult draw. From the opening lines of Lieutant Dan Choi’s keynote address the audience was captivated and made a conscious decision to allow each message to mean something. All around me people seemed to throw away pretense and to say that, tonight matters. Messages about diversity, acceptance, understanding and our responsibility as a community emerged through the inspirational stories of each speaker and musical performer. Music that wouldn’t otherwise be heard on Western’s campus suddenly had the ability to capture the hearts and minds of the audience; stories that might otherwise have been uncomfortable to hear were accepted with open arms; and moment after moment it was possible to see people say, tonight matters.
Every part of me wants to believe that Western has the ability to turn the mantra of tonight matters into today, tomorrow and everyday matters but it is up to all of us to make sure that we live up to the expectations set by One Love. I want students to start asking themselves the tough questions about life at Western. I’m asking you to think beyond what we currently have and to focus on identifying what we know that we need. For now, don’t worry about who provides or pays for the service, just start to think about what you expect. Do you expect to be able to walk in to Psychological Services or Student Health and book an appointment within the day? Do you expect there to be an LGBT Resource Centre on campus? Do you expect to be able to have safe space and support on campus to practice your faith? If you find or experience a gap don’t just let it slide. Send an email, ask a question or tell someone about it. Living up to the message of One Love is going to take an effort by everyone at the University to look both at our own experience and at the experiences of those around us to find out how we can improve.
I want everyone to know that Western has an incredibly strong heartbeat and that students are willing, as demonstrated at One Love, to forge a connection with people and their stories. For me, the message of One Love matters everyday that I come to campus. I’m willing to admit that One Love may not resonate with everyone, but those that it has inspired please don’t lose the fire. As Bill Clinton said about Barack Obama, I want students, faculty and staff on this campus to be be calm and understanding on the outside, but to burn for Western on the inside. If we work hard enough we will be able to sustain the momentum for acceptance on this campus and make Western into a leader on the issues that matter most.
At One Love students said, tonight matters. This year students have the power to say, it always matters.