I began teaching history at Albion College amidst the turmoil of the 1960s: civil rights struggles, Vietnam, women’s liberation, environmental crisis, and campus unrest. With the world in flames, I could not escape into an academic ivory tower. Consequently, I helped organize and participated in debates, protests, and marches to Washington. I also sought to inspire my students to apply their historical knowledge to their world. I not only wanted to describe the world, I wanted to help make a better world. This approach, however, is a two-way street. Inspiring students to activism also means that the professor has to “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk.” When my students led a courageous and controversial divestment campaign on campus to combat apartheid in South Africa in the late 1980s, many were acting out what they had learned in my “1960s” history class. In an opinion piece supporting their cause, I wrote that the students had 'listened with their hearts and are calling for action'.
I am proud of those students who took risks for conscience and of all my students who write to tell about their work as teachers, lawyers, parents, citizens, and activists in standing up for peace, justice, the environment, and human rights. The realization that my students, past and present, have “listened with their hearts” motivates me, after 40 years, to keep on keeping on in this exciting and challenging time.