On Tuesday, May 21, Beaver presented the 2013 Driscoll Award for Social Responsibility. Members of the Driscoll Family have been both students and faculty at Beaver for generations. The Driscoll Award for Social Responsibility reflects the family’s commitment to service in the community.
Nominees will be considered annually by the Nominating Committee for Beaver Country Day School Alumni Awards. An appointed member of the Driscoll family will sit on the Nominating Committee and attend all meetings of the Committee.
This year the award was presented to Jaime Lederer ’00, MSW, MPH by representatives from the Driscoll family, Kit Beaudouin ’72 and Kate Coon ’69. After graduating from Beaver in 2000, Jaime Lederer went on to study sociology and anthropology at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana. She graduated in 2004 and returned to Boston to work for the American Friends Service Committee, organizing against the Iraq War and other peace initiatives. Soon after, she earned a Master’s in Social Work and a Master’s in Public Health from Boston University, where she also worked as a research assistant for the School of Social Work. During this time she was involved in community-based work in Jamaica Plain with youth-focused programs and organizations addressing health disparities and community development. She went on to work as Program Assistant for Higher Ground Initiative in Roxbury, helping to develop the organization so that it could bring social services to the residents of the Warren Gardens housing development.
Below are her remarks from the ceremony.
To Have Faith There is a Finish Line in the Marathon for Peace
Good Morning! It’s quite an honor, and surprise, to have been invited here today and to receive this award! It was a huge surprise to get a call from Mr. Hutton a few weeks ago! It’s been a while since I’ve been back to Beaver – so thank you for the invitation to be here today! And thank you for listening.
It’s hard for me to comprehend that I am a recipient of an award for “social responsibility.” I feel strongly that we all should be living out a life in this way and good stewards to our communities. For me, it’s inherent in how we should live – do good and be good. When I was a student here, at Beaver, and some of the faculty in this room may recall, I pushed the envelope on school policies, with a strong focus on social justice and being socially conscious – not just as an individual, but as a school, as a community. Sometimes pushing the envelope worked well, and other times got me into a little trouble…but it was here at Beaver that I was challenged to expand my way of thinking and to ask questions. I was supported as I struggled to find my voice. Finding one’s voice is so important and often, youth are not included in the conversation. This is true of many marginalized groups – youth, people of color, immigrants…My life’s work has been devoted to empowerment, youth, violence prevention and peace.
Shortly after I spoke with Mr. Hutton and was beginning to think about what I may say today, the marathon bombings happened. As I struggled to make sense of this event in relation to all the other acts of evil and hate in the world, and in relation to my career as a peace activist, I came across an article from the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker service organization, where I early in my career. I was struck by the phrase, “To have faith there is a finish line in the marathon for peace.”
To have faith there is a finish line in the marathon for peace. Working towards peace is not easy work! And what does it even mean? Peace work can be on so many different levels- in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in the world. But it can’t be done in a silo. In my career, peace and justice have been my leading core values. So whether it was helping kids in the Midwest with tutoring and mentoring, or organizing against the Iraq War, peace has been an end goal, leading from my heart. It is one thing to support and believe that we should have peace. But not everyone devotes their career to the work of making peace.
It was here, that I was exposed to Margaret Mead, an anthropologist whose work I studied as part of an interdisciplinary project, I think in 9th grade. She was a well-respected, and fairly controversial woman for her time. I was so inspired. And it was because of my interest in her work, that one of my teachers pushed me to attend college in another part of the country and not stay in Boston. “If you want to be an anthropologist then you should see the world!” She said. “Don’t stay here in Boston!”
While studying sociology and anthropology, I took advantage of every opportunity I could – particularly in traveling. And that’s how I ended up back here in Boston doing grassroots community-based work. My travels took me to some of the less desirable communities of the world – Pilsen in Chicago, which at the time was a 99% Mexican immigrant community where the city often forgot about, to Detroit, to Cuba, to Juarez Mexico, to Dakar, Senegal and very rural Midwestern towns, and more. In each of these places I was exposed to not only the community’s deficits, but to their strengths. For it was in these communities that grassroots organizing and community groups were working to make their homes better.
Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Rang true for me. I was able to witness communities in Mexico educate each other about access to clean water; teaching women about reproductive health and prenatal care; human rights education on the US/Mexico border; use of indigenous cultural practices and arts to promote peace in colonized nations…and it was during my time on the US/Mexico border, that one of my colleagues, a mentor, spoke honestly and truthfully to me, “Jaime, I love that you care so much about people and our community. But why are you here? What are the problems and issues in your home? Where you are from?” And she encouraged me to take all the pieces of the puzzle and bring that knowledge and experience back home.
My message today is that whatever career path you choose, forensics or fashion, forestry or finance – it has to matter and it has to make positive impact in people’s lives, and the world. Love what you do, be passionate about the work, and change people’s lives, including yours. What skills do you have to make peace in the world?
We need people to care about what they do and know that it matters! In my work in Somerville, at Teen Empowerment, I work closely with organizations and groups in many different sectors – I work with the city of Somerville’s community development groups, and the parks, the police department, various after school programs and environmental groups, health centers, and so on…the work we’ve done in Somerville to make it a safe and wonderful place to live, work, and play is across sectors. Interdisciplinary – a concept I was 1st introduced to here. Sometimes you never know where solutions will come from when you reach across the table.
When I look back on my time here, studying history and the arts made a huge impact on me. Sometimes I hear the phrase, “Why do we study history? So we don’t make the mistakes of our past.” But I was able to also study amazing ways that people organized for peace and justice. So I encourage you to study history so we can find solutions from our past to make our communities safer, healthier, livable. Mrs. Davino, Mr. Gow, Mr. Gregg, were all teachers that pushed me to learn more about grassroots revolutions and uprisings throughout the world.
At Teen Empowerment, we work to help youth develop their voice. Everyone has a story and it needs to be heard. Much of this is done through performance and public speaking. In a few short months, we create an annual peace conference, where an important portion of the event is an all-original performance by youth using theater, spoken word, speeches and music – to tell their stories. More than 500 people attend this event from across the city of Somerville. It was here at Beaver that I stood on the stage at Bradley Hall, the risers for chorus performances, and created and performed plays in the Rogers Room. I developed the confidence to stand in front of people through all those years of studying theater with Jenn Yolles. It wasn’t until recently did I realize how important those drama classes were to my development to speak up and stand up for what I believe is right. I channel this regularly in my work with youth in Somerville – as finding your voice in a world where everyone is telling you to be something or someone other than what you want to be – is difficult. But I never succumbed to that pressure and I hope that all of you will be who you want to be- not who “your supposed to be.”
For me, a career in public health social work is more than a job – it’s my passion and life’s work. The work can be difficult and heartbreaking – whether the young person you have such high hopes for lets you down, or a bomb drops in your back yard, you have to find a healthy balance – laugh, live, make music and enjoy the people you surround yourself with. Take care of yourself and those you love. The youth I work with in Somerville, and probably some of you here in this room, are Michael Jackson fans, and my youth quote Man In The Mirror, – “if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.” Peace work starts with you and how you treat yourself and those closest to you. There are times when you may want to give up on yourself, or the world, but I challenge you to believe and have faith there will be a finish line in the marathon for peace. I hope you’ll join me in the race.