Solidarity while in College: Dr. Daniel Burns

Dr. Daniel Burns, assistant professor of politics at UD, gave the second keynote address of the fall conference. Dr. Burns discussed the concept of ‘solidarity,’ a relatively new term for an age old concept: helping the poor. Dr. Burns spoke on finding the balance between ministering to the poor and maintaining academic performance during college. 

It can be a struggle to live out solidarity as a student. It can often seem that the best opportunities to live out solidarity come later in life. We might want to help with the mental needs of the poor, but not have the life experience yet to be able to offer sound counsel. Maybe we want to be political activists that advocate for better care for the poor, but don’t yet have the political background or ability to implement changes. We might want to help with the logistical side of organizations that help the poor, but would be more valuable later in life with more business expertise. As students, we have certain limitations, such as balancing academics and service, that we will not have later on in life. So how can we live out the Christian idea of ‘solidarity’ in our state in life as students? Burns stressed the importance of long-term thinking to help the poor. Dr. Burns suggested that we hit the books and make the most of our education so that we can use these formative years to create a strong foundation for service later in life. 

Dr. Burns also discussed a form of poverty we probably encounter more often in daily interactions: spiritual poverty. The effects of spiritual poverty are felt sharply on our campuses as we see peers struggle with drugs, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and addictions. 

In a culture that pushes the vice of thoughtlessness, it is easy to see how these symptoms can creep into our lives. Living in solidarity with one another, sharing the fraternal love of Christ with those who are starving for human connection, is the first step to healing the disease of spiritual poverty that has become rampant in the world. 

 

Q&A with Dr. Daniel Burns

For those of us planning to go into a corporate work environment and putting our focus on those we can help in the long-run, should we seek to help everyday people or people on the street?

There’s no one size fit all answer to this question. Each of us has a unique set of talents and we should take this into consideration as we determine where we can best minister to others. Some of us might be better able to minister to coworkers struggling with spiritual poverty while others can better minister to the homeless. 

How can we, as leaders, reach out to invite people to those virtues when they are experiencing spiritual poverty, anxiety, etc.?

It is our job as student leaders to help ourselves and fellow students to be good students and good people. When students are resistant to this effort, it is important to challenge them to think like citizens rather than subjects. Often universities patronize students, treating them as a parent does to young children. Instead, we should encourage students to recognize that they have the power to take charge of their problems and bring about the positive change they want to see on their campus.