Senior Orations – Buck Hinman (’16)

It’s the end of a glorious week on campus.  It’s been in the 70s and 80s all week, but to my dismay we’re about to hit a cold and possibly rainy stretch this weekend and early next week.

Big, breaking news of the day: there was an announcement this morning of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering programs that will start at Wake.  This story will be covered in Wake Parents & Families e-newsletter too (which I hope will go out today or Monday). But for now, do read the story online. So exciting.  Stay tuned.

And just as the week is ending, we are coming to the home stretch of our Senior Orations – one today, one next week.  Today we have “Creating Community Through Pro Humanitate” by Buck Hinman (’16).

Make it a great weekend, Deac families!  (And because it’s Friday, we remind you to talk to your students.  You love and miss them – give them a call).

— by Betsy Chapman


I read a story recently about a pregnant woman who found, reportedly, a human finger in her salad at an Applebee’s in California. Apparently, the finger belonged to one of the cooks, who didn’t even notice his finger coming off. When I saw this article, the journalist inside of me said, “You know this is a dumb story. This reads like one of those old tabloids claiming to prove the existence of marvels like the ‘Bat Boy’ and mermaids.” But do you know what I did? I devoured every word of that article. I couldn’t stop reading! I mean, come on, don’t you want to hear how the heck something like that can happen?

Yet, when I saw articles about the amazing expansion of Innovation Quarter here in Winston-Salem or the rapid revitalization of the downtown area, I just couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing. I could get through the headline and maybe the first few paragraphs, sure, but rarely did I ever read the entire article. This struggle became especially apparent in a Community Journalism class I took with Professor Phoebe Zerwick here at Wake. We took quizzes each week with questions asking basic information about important local stories in Winston-Salem, and, for some reason, studying for those quizzes proved immensely difficult. I just couldn’t remember information about newly-elected city officials, business deals, or major construction on the highway as easily as I could recall that woman with a finger in her salad.

Sure, the reason this happened seems obvious – local reporting simply doesn’t seem to have the overarching consequences or heightened shock value as national political scandals or wars abroad. Reading big, investigative reports in the New York Times feels much more weighty and impactful than a local politician embezzling funds. But does that difference justify my negligence and occasional disregard for local news? These are stories that significantly impact the community in which I live and the lives of the people around me.

But that story about the finger is just so interesting, isn’t it?

So, let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. Don’t worry, it’s fine – there is no need to stress about a wrong answer. Just tell yourself the truth: how many of you read any issues of the Old Gold & Black this semester? I know some of you who have never even looked at a copy in your four years here at Wake!

Or, consider the place you call home. Can you name the mayor of your town or city? Any local officials? Your state senators? These are people who make the day-to-day decisions that affect your quality of life, and that of your neighbors. In addition to fighting for our allies and those struggling around the world, are you standing up to fight for the people you grew up with? How about those who you greet on the street every day and who make your food, or keep your electricity running?

Our generation lives in an incredible and wacky world where you and I can confidently discuss the Sunni and Shi’ite conflict plaguing the Middle East yet remain blissfully unaware of institutional racism or high numbers of sexual assault on our own university’s campus. We receive so much information every day through our phones, our TV, our friends, and our classes, that only the most attention-grabbing headlines hold our interest.

For the record, this speech isn’t only about being news-savvy. Following every news story reported every day would be exhausting – just ask the editor or news director of any major news outlet. This is about how the macro and the micro have importance. This is about how we often pursue the grandest goals and ideas without remembering the importance of the smallest.

As Wake Forest students, we tend to think big. Our teachers push us and we push ourselves to shape the world in the spirit of Pro Humanitate. A lot of you will leave here to run some of the largest financial sectors in the country, fill positions in our national government, or work on world-altering advances in medicine and technologies .In those worlds, it’s easy to forget what’s happening in our immediate surroundings and how we treat those in our communities, including ourselves. But we cannot forget that, however lofty Pro Humanitate sounds, it is crucial we apply it not just to those one thousand miles away, but also to those immediately around us. With the skills and talents we have developed at Wake, our class has the ability and the responsibility to improve the communities in which we live.

I’m hopeful about us. In my time at Wake, I have met people who will undoubtedly become dedicated public servants, and people who will always be willing to help someone in need. I know students at this school who spend hours every week going to shelters and organizations around Winston-Salem and helping out because they know they can use their knowledge and skills to improve the lives of people around them. And because of this, all the “strangers” that we have been taught to fear or ignore become friends faster than one might think.

The next time you feel disconnected from the people around you or you miss the strength and richness of the Wake Forest community, remember that we can recreate what we had here at Wake in every city around the country. It’s up to us, as we leave the Wake Bubble once and for all, to stop forming bubbles altogether.  Wherever you end up, go and learn about your community, engage with your community, and  work to create an environment where Pro Humanitate isn’t just an ideal, but a reality. Thank you.


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