Last Friday Wheaton had the pleasure of officially celebrating the start of Dennis Hanno’s tenure as Wheaton’s eighth President. As part of the inauguration’s focus on a commitment to service, Deogratias “Deo” Niyizonkiza was selected as the 2014 recipient of the Otis Social Justice Award.
I had the pleasure of attending an informal roundtable discussion and Q&A session with Deo shortly after the award presentation. What struck me in meeting him was the unflinching — and unfailing — optimism that has driven his personal development and, subsequently, his entrepreneurial efforts in rural Burundi.
“Convince yourself that nothing is impossible,” said Deo. That word — convince — demonstrated to me Deo’s passionate dedication to making the world a better place. I sat in silence throughout the discussion, mostly awed by his ability to make some of the most daunting struggles on the face of the earth — namely, abject poverty, hunger, and health crises — morally relevant to a group of students and staff largely removed from the kinds of horrors he described.
In his greetings to the inauguration crowd on Friday morning, Deo had a simple statement on the problem of inequality: “How can we not care?” he asked, reminding us that the poorest on the Earth are also those most frequently ignored.
Deo’s sentiments were not only inspirational but also necessary for a campus that can often feel isolated from the problems of the outside world. President Hanno has set us a challenge: fifteen hours of service in the next year, dedicated towards helping the outside community.
Fifteen hours. Let’s go do it — and more.
Categories: From the Editor