Notre Dame Community Pauses to Reflect during Walk the Walk Week

Author: Peterson, Alina


For the fifth annual Walk the Walk Week, students, faculty and guests participated in an array of thought-provoking events. Programming included a discussion panel luncheon with keynote speaker and civil rights activist Diane Nash on Martin Luther King Day, as well as a unity-building mass at the Basilica presided over by Pete McCormick, C.S.C. 

Throughout the week, lectures were offered surveying a variety of topics such as the 100-year anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement and the complications of contextualizing Thomas Jefferson as both a myth and man in the modern day. 

Walk the Walk requested that students take the time to pause and reflect on the mission it espouses. Although the week calls on the community to act, its organizers also emphasized the need for still, uninterrupted moments of meditation on social justice. The abundance of discussions and opportunities for reflection concerning the issues of race relations, inclusion and diversity demanded that students stop, sit and listen.

During the MLK Luncheon, the Joyce Center audience paused to listen to Nash’s appeals for remembrance and contemplation on the legacy of the civil rights movement. Nash called on the youth of today to “choose an issue that moves you, that you are passionate about, because that passion comes from the same source that created your life.” 

At the “Thomas Jefferson, Race, Slavery, and the Problem of American Nationhood” lecture, Professors Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter Onuf spoke to a packed audience at the Notre Dame Law School. Both meditated on how to understand Jefferson in light of his influence on the founding of this country in conjunction with his history as a slave-owner. Onuf challenged the audience to consider, “If Jefferson is wrong — and that’s what we think about him now — what does that say about us, and where do we go on from here?” 

Gordon-Reed framed the controversy over Jefferson’s legacy as a compelling prospect: “It’s hard right now in an era when we’re thinking about inclusion in history, different people’s stories, to figure out what we do with him. The interesting thing to me about it is his life gives us an opportunity to have that kind of discussion in ways that, [with] other members of the founding generation, you can’t.”

Although the solutions to many of the social issues presented throughout the week are complex, Walk the Walk Week gave the Notre Dame community an opportunity to wrestle with that complexity. Nash ended the luncheon with a guiding message for the audience: “As you go through life you will have decisions to make. My advice would be, always make a decision that will make you admire and respect the person you see in the mirror."