The Loras College Du-Buddies organization brought international speaker and author Bob Lenz to campus last week as part of their group’s biggest week of the year, End the “R” Word Week. Lenz spoke in the ACC Ballrooms on Thursday, March 16 from 7 pm to 8 pm. The audience ranged in age, and was comprised of not only Du-Buddies members but other students, staff, faculty and Dubuque community members as well. All were encouraged to attend Lenz’s talk about inclusivity and diversity.
Lenz has spoken in all 50 states, various other countries, and has reached over five million people total throughout his career of public speaking which has spanned 30 years. He typically speaks about middle and high school students regarding bullying and inclusion, but has tailored his talks about diversity to numerous other situations as well, such as the one that Du-Buddies provided.
After an introduction by Du-Buddies Vice President Katie Kramer, Lenz began by sharing a story about a boy that he had once met, less than 10-years-old, who had been in a home with an alcoholic parent. He was emotionally abused by his father both in the privacy of his home and in front of his friends. Lenz said the boy told him that instead of sticking up for himself or reacting to his father, he just took it, because he knew that reaction would only make the situation worse for him and the rest of his family.
“What happens when you push pain and hurt down? Eventually what comes out is anger,” Lenz said.
One of his key points was that society today encourages this mentality of pushing down and hiding emotion and pain for the sake of maintaining one’s composure and “being strong.” However, Lenz’s argument was that in doing so, all that happens is that pain and hurt build up, and have to eventually find a release. Too often, this release comes out in the form of creating a bully, which only continues the cycle of pain and hurt.
The idea of respect and care for each other was Lenz’s solution to try to halt this cycle. Instead of perpetuating this endless wheel of hurt, being welcoming towards others, no matter what they look like, no matter what language they speak or where they come from, or what kind of ability they have, being inclusive and getting to know someone could be the easy solution to putting a stop to the pain.
As a Catholic, Lenz finds the root to this principle in the Bible, going back to Genesis 1:1, where it states that “In the beginning God created…” That was his point, that God created all things, and all things are God. Man was made in God’s image, and Lenz believes here that there is definite proof that no one is created by accident, all are intentional creations by the Creator Himself, in His image.
Next Lenz gave another anecdote, this time about one of his daughters. She was struggling at a prestigious university with her self-image and worth. Lenz told her, “Be you, no more, no less.” He stressed that he would give that same advice to anyone. Everyone is created uniquely for a reason, with their own strengths and weaknesses that add to the value of the larger human community on Earth.
Lenz’s sister, Lois, was in attendance as well. Lois is an individual with an intellectual disability, and she is one of the key reasons why Lenz does what he does. He told the story of how he once denied knowing his own sister, for the sake of fitting in with a certain crowd at school. He says that he’s sorry every day that he did so.
“The reason I’m doing what I’m doing is because I’ve struggled so much myself,” he said.
Lenz invited Lois up on stage with him to sing a song together about friendship and inclusion, one that she’s always enjoyed singing. They had a younger brother, also an individual with intellectual disabilities, who has since passed away. Lois used to sing the song to him. After they went through it once together, Lenz encouraged the audience to join them for a second rendition.
Lenz’s closing remarks to the audience encapsulated his motto of acceptance and inclusion, no matter what circumstance it is related to.
“Not taking the time is a huge reason as to why bullying happens,” Lenz said. “Take time to understand.”