Judson College President David E. Potts reminded Samford University seniors of Helen Keller's prescription for "true happiness" during Fall Commencement Saturday, Dec. 18. Such a feeling is acquired "through fidelity to a worthy purpose," Keller believed.
Dr. Potts likened the efforts of Samford students and faculty in Perry County, Alabama, to such a purpose. The county in which Samford was founded as Howard College in 1841 is today one of the state's poorest, with high poverty rates that have led some to call it "the third world of Alabama."
"You bring hope!" Potts told the 280 graduates and others attending Commencement. He cited Samford's sending of tutors and readers, organizers for summer enrichment programs, pharmacy students to set up hypertension clinics and other efforts to help Perry County, where Judson is located.
"While commissions study again and again the plight of the Black Belt and recommend the same or similar action plans of previously appointed commissions, while councils wring their hands over poverty and failure, while government and foundations mandate ineffective and costly programs without input from the very people they wish to aid, you act," he said.
"You understand what so few seem to know. You don't do 'to' or 'for' the poor. You are 'with' the poor."
He added, "In these remarkable initiatives, we discover meaning and purpose by giving of ourselves to those in need."
Potts told his audience that, while there are many sound economic, political and social reasons for focusing attention on Perry County, "I believe the community of believers, of Christ-followers, should reach out to this county and to this region because it is the right thing to do."
Ministering to the poor is one of the most prominent themes in the Bible, he noted, citing the chapter in Matthew in which Jesus says, "Assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, you did it to Me."