Artboard 1 apply Artboard 1 copy 2 Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB give Artboard 1 copy 3 info link Mount_Logo_Primary_RGB Artboard 1 Artboard 2 Artboard 1 visit

How Diversity Leads to Harmony: Dr. Nadja West Delivers St. Peter Claver Lecture

Paige Roberts
Graduate Assistant, Office of University Marketing & Communications

Ret. Lieutenant General Nadja West, M.D., the first Black surgeon general of the U.S. Army, spoke to the Mount community Sept. 9, at the annual St. Peter Claver Lecture. The title of her talk, “The Golden Rule Revisited: Building a Harmonious Community,” focused on ways to foster a more inclusive community on campus.

nadja-west-lecture-in-text.jpgThe former commanding general of the U.S. Army Medical Command, West became the first African American woman in the Army’s history to achieve the rank of lieutenant general In 2015. She is currently the highest-ranking woman graduate of the United States Military Academy and serves on the Mount’s Board of Trustees.

St. Peter Claver’s feast day celebrates the ministry that he served to enslaved Africans in the Caribbean in the early 1600s. Known as the patron saint of enslaved people, he met arriving ships with medicine, food and supplies, and aided the brutalized men and women who were grievously part of the nearly 100-year-old slave trade. He lived the principle that God’s love is most readily accepted by those whose bodily needs are met along with their spiritual needs.

Loving one another through the action of meeting the needs of others, like St. Peter Claver did, is crucial in sharing the love that Jesus Christ commanded his followers show to their neighbor. West emphasized that building a harmonious campus community starts with a commitment to act. She introduced a simple acronym, L.O.V.E., to communicate the action components of achieving the “consistent whole” that harmony embodies.

Listen to and learn from each other.

Open your heart.

Value each other as unique.

Embrace, envelop and invite others in.

Leaders, she said, should use another “E” in energizing their people through acting as a reliable and honorable example. Leadership involves influencing others to achieve an end through both words and deeds. West warned that a leader’s influence can be applicable for good or for ill, deliberate or inadvertent. Leaders possess the obligation to uphold the actions of listening, learning, opening, valuing, embracing and enveloping to create a harmonious whole.

“Disharmony can come about from misunderstandings left unadjudicated,” West explained. “When you seize those opportunities to correct those unadjudicated misunderstandings, you are building a harmonious community one person at a time with love, kindness, and forgiveness.”

To be a leader, empathy is vital to the success of any team. Acting empathetically helps to instill and maintain dignity, respect and a sense of belonging among the people of any community, team or organization, she said. “All of us are leaders, we all provide purpose, direction and motivation on a daily basis,” West shared.

The importance of diversity, equity and inclusion is clear in building a harmonious community, West went on. Studies have shown that diverse groups are more intelligent groups. “It speaks to the ability of a diverse group to draw on multiple perspectives, experiences and approaches that are extremely valuable in problem solving,” she stated. West explained the value that a diverse group provides in identifying a range of solutions within a team or organization opposed to a narrow menu of solutions from those with little diversity of thought or experience.

She continued by distinguishing the difference between being tolerated allowed, or invited. Although diversity is possible in each situation, the climate behind the sentiment is often obvious. By inviting new members to share their ideas instead of merely tolerating or allowing them to do so, leaders encourage a commitment to diversity through acting and listening.

“Love disarms; kindness disarms these presumptions we have,” shared Associate Professor of Art, Nick Hutchings, M.F.A. during the Q&A session at the end of the lecture. When acknowledging the importance of each member of the Mount community, from the custodial staff to administrators and students, “We all make this thing run, and kindness, respect and love at that very elemental level is truly the thing that makes it all work,” Hutchings assured.

After President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D., made his closing remarks, he presented West with a presidential coin while thanking her for her commitment as a soldier and contributions to the Mount community.

Paige Roberts
Graduate Assistant, Office of University Marketing & Communications