"One of my fundamental beliefs is that basic human nature is compassionate. Whether you believe in religion or not, the very purpose of our life is happiness. To achieve greater happiness, we must pay more attention to our inner thoughts. The result of compassion is happiness."His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama, delivered this message to an audience of more than four thousand in the Woodruff Physical Education Center last fall. In an event co-sponsored by Emory and the International Campaign for Tibet, the Dalai Lama encouraged listeners to practice positive thinking and action and to forgo negative thoughts, emotions, and behavior. His Emory appearance was the first stop on a four-city, twelve-day tour of the United States.
Winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people and is considered by his followers to be the reincarnation of the Buddha. He lives in India, in exile from Tibet, which was invaded by the Chinese in 1949. A decade later, when the Chinese government crushed a Tibetan uprising, the Dalai Lama and eighty thousand other Tibetans fled the country.
Before the Dalai Lama's address, Provost Billy Frye awarded him the University's first President's Medal. "[The medal is] to be conferred on individuals whose impact on the world has enhanced the dominion of peace or has enlarged the range of cultural achievement," Frye said. "The impact of the XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet has done both."
The Dalai Lama began his address through an interpreter, but after several minutes he continued in English, saying he wished "to communicate heart to heart." He urged members of the Emory community to re-examine the violent images they see in the media, and he called for a more balanced presentation of the news. "These things shock, therefore they become news," he said. "I think they are bad for human emotion. We need to put more effort into making a happier society."
During his remarks, he also requested the help of the United States in bringing the Chinese government to the negotiating table. "I think if [China] will adopt a more open mind and flexible policy and think of long-term interests, then we can find an agreeable solution," he said.
After the Dalai Lama spoke, actor Richard Gere took the podium to discuss his support for the movement to free Tibet from Chinese control. "The issue of saving Tibet is in a very real sense about saving myself," said Gere, himself a follower of the Dalai Lama. "I don't like to think of it as a political issue. I choose to see it as a heart issue. It's a question of right and wrong."
The following morning, the Dalai Lama spoke again at The Temple in Atlanta during an "Atlanta Interfaith Dialogue" co-sponsored by the Department of Religion and several of the city's religious organizations. He told the group of civic and religious leaders, "In spite of theological and ideological differences, deep down everyone shares one thing: we are human. . . . Each individual who follows a religious tradition must practice that tradition with sincerity. That is the basis of genuine harmony among different institutions."--A.O.A.
"I think the most remarkable finding [in the study] was that among people over age sixty in Atlanta, more than 80 percent essentially have inadequate functional health literacy," says Williams, an assistant professor of medicine at Emory and director of the Urgent Care Center at Grady Memorial Hospital. "And there hasn't been a lot done toward changing the way we deliver health care information to them. . . .
"This prevalence of low literacy in our patient population affects patients' understanding of their diagnosis, how they take their medications, and where their appointments are. We did exit interviews with patients, and we asked them, What did the doctor say was wrong with you? What did the doctor say you were supposed to get for treatment, and when is your follow-up appointment? Then we compared the accuracy of the patients' responses with their literacy skills, and there was a direct correlation. As their literacy skills dropped, so did their recognition of what was wrong with them. . . . We need to respond to the fact that so many of our patients can't read and can't use numbers. We need to get around that, because otherwise we're not delivering informed health care."
Funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Literacy in Health Care Project was the first study of its kind. More than three thousand patients were interviewed in Atlanta and Los Angeles, and the study found that "up to one third of patients presenting for acute care did not adequately understand instructions for a common radiographic procedure written at a fourth grade level."
Now that the problem has been documented, Williams and his co-principal investigators--Ruth M. Parker and David W. Baker, also assistant professors of medicine at Emory--have applied for additional funding to develop interventions to mitigate the impact of low functional health literacy. According to Williams, interventions include changing the way pill bottles are made and allowing patients with low health literacy to have a family member accompany them into the examining room to help them with any questions they might have. "At Grady, there is almost always a family member with the patient," says Williams. "And I think a lot of patients would like to have the family member [with them], but that's how [doctors are] trained--you examine the patient [alone] so there is no interference. And I don't know if that's necessarily the right way to do it in this population."
Williams says he is most excited about looking into developing multimedia programs that will help address the problem. "There is a cardiologist in California . . . [who] has developed a multimedia education program for patients with heart disease," he says. "The patient watches a display, and if they have a question they can touch a little microphone on the screen and say their question and then start up the program again. The physician can come in afterwards, play the questions, and answer them. The graphics are tremendous, and I think we can do the same thing. And people are very accepting because they watch television. It's something familiar to them."
Williams believes these kinds of advances will help patients better understand their health care options. However, he knows it's just part of a larger issue that needs to be addressed. "The bigger picture is that we need to improve the literacy skills of the patients at large . . . ," he says. "And we're trying to develop some bonds [with Atlanta literacy organizations] where we can begin to teach reading at Grady Hospital. This is a fantastic place to do that."--J.D.T.
"We ran it for a year and a half, but we just never got to the profitable point," he says. "Since Daddy's had gone down the tubes, I had a chance for a career change, so I decided to do it right, to go to an industrial psychologist and take all the tests. When the results came back, the psychologist said, `You're real smart. I've never had anyone do as well on this test as you did. That's the good news. The bad news is you don't fit any [occupational] profiles. I can't tell you what to do. But for people who don't fit profiles, we find they make very good lawyers or very good forest rangers.'
"I was overjoyed. I got to go back and tell my wife, `It's either Montana or law school.' "Brown chose law school--Emory law school--and apparently, he's found his niche. Since his graduation in 1992, he has founded Justice For All (JFA), a non-profit association of attorneys that bridges the gap for clients who are too poor to hire traditional lawyers but do not qualify for legal aid. To date, JFA has served some one thousand clients.
As a result of his work, Brown has been featured on the Turner Broadcasting System's (TBS) community affairs series, "Between the Lines," and received the "TBS 17 Super Citizen of the Week" award.
Justice For All operates out of the cavernous second floor of a brick building on Walton Street in downtown Atlanta. The mood in the office is casual. Brown's Great Danes, Tig and Cleo, frequently compete with him for space in his office.
Seventy-five percent of the cases handled by JFA are domestic in nature. Fifty percent of those cases are divorces. "I tell my clients, and I encourage my attorneys to have the same attitude, that a divorce is not just the termination of a marriage, it's the foundation for future relationships," he says. "When my clients come in, I say, `What do you want to do? Do you want to go to your daughter's wedding in fifteen years or not? Because how you act now is going to decide that. It could either be a great time or a miserable time.' "
The remaining cases involve child custody and child support, wills, probate, administration of estates, traffic offenses, misdemeanor offenses, and landlord-tenant problems.
At its core, JFA is a symbiotic organism, benefiting the volunteer lawyers as much as the clients. Most of the volunteer lawyers are recent law school graduates with, Brown says, "more hours than clients" and very little money. Brown offers them discounted office space in downtown Atlanta in exchange for a six-month commitment to do ten hours of pro bono work a week.
Of the seventeen lawyers who have passed through the JFA office since November 1993, five received job offers from private law firms or the city, seven started their own practice, two quit the practice of law (one to become a stockbroker, the other a teacher), and two have gotten lost in the shuffle. The lawyers have all honored their commitment to six months of service, with many staying up to nine months, one completing a year, and another staying eighteen months.
Eventually, Brown hopes to branch out to DeKalb County, Marietta, Atlanta's south side, and perhaps statewide. "My gut feeling is that there are plenty of people who need help," he says. "It's just a matter of them becoming aware of the services we offer."
Continually recruiting new lawyers remains a challenge. "As we become more well known, the attorneys who have been associated with us will become more marketable," he says. "Of the five who went on to get jobs, . . . I think their experience with JFA made a difference in whether they were hired. They knew where the courthouse was. They had already been before judges. . . . They had done a trial, or two, or three. They were more attractive to the people who were hiring because there was no learning curve, no training time.
"It's important to foster a commitment to pro bono work. Maybe it will encourage other attorneys to do the same thing."--A.B.
It's a typical scene for a university campus, but what is unusual is that these scholars are high-school students attending the Candler School of Theology's month-long Youth Theology Institute (YTI). An annual summer program begun in 1993, YTI brings sixty rising high-school seniors to Emory to explore questions of theology, social ethics, and their own faith. The scholars come from as far away as California and Montana, and they embody religious traditions as diverse as Islam, Pentecostalism, and Judaism. In 1995, some 260 students vied for the program's sixty slots. Selection is based on academic record, application essays, and recommendations. Funded for three years by an $800,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment, the program awards full scholarships to all participants.
"Our goal, in a nutshell, is to help them fall in love with theology . . . ," says Don Richter, YTI director and assistant professor of Christian education. "Kids are taught everywhere to just watch and listen: watch TV, buy the product, and be quiet. They are supposed to be consumers of culture, not creators of culture. We want to teach them constructive ways to speak and envision for the future. . . . We think they are eager to have forums where we really pay attention to them, to the things they're really concerned about. . . .
"[We ask], What does theology mean for everyday life and for the interests the kids might bring to the program? [For example], most of the kids who come are from a Christian background, and now they're in schools with people of other faith traditions. . . . They're asking these [kinds of] questions: I have a good friend who is Buddhist. Will she be saved? My church tradition teaches me that only through Jesus can we have salvation. What about these people? How is their moral life and vision shaped by that experience of God? Can they be good people?"
Dilemmas like these come up in daily exploratory groups during which YTI students consider topics such as Biblical Dialogues with "Otherness," The Ethics of Ambition, and Science and Religion. The texts for these courses include the work of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, theologian David Blumenthal, and scholar Joseph Campbell. Participants also frequently meet in more intimate, less structured "covenant groups" to air their responses to the new ideas and experiences YTI presents. Other times are set aside for worship, study, entertainment, and recreation.
The students make weekly "pilgrimages" to a variety of religious communities, including Jewish, Hindu, and Islamic. Once a week they work and study with local service agencies engaged in different dimensions of urban life, such as housing and homelessness, the judiciary and penal systems, health care, and education. The students also keep journals in which they grapple with the questions raised during the institute.
"These experiences and texts help them make sense of questions they're already asking and point them in the direction of better questions along the way," Richter says. "It stretches them beyond the conventional answers they sometimes get in their home churches, for those who go to church. . . . They get really inspired, and they're willing to do the hard work that reading and reflecting on theology requires."
YTI instructor Helen Blier, a doctoral student in Emory's Graduate Division of Religion, adds, "They're learning in their own bones what community is, what doing theology is, what it means to transform life as we live it. One scholar described herself as `standing on the edge of the abyss.' The abyss is the unknown, and what stood behind her was everything she said she'd been indoctrinated to believe about theology and religion."
YTI students and alumni, who continue their discussions about faith and college life over the Internet and at reunions, often say the experience transforms them. "My mind is growing," says Alex Evans, a 1995 participant from Newark and a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. "It's like someone's given me a key to a room inside my house that I'd never been in before, a floor I never knew existed."
Frances Reed came to YTI in 1995 from San Antonio, where she attends a Baptist church. "I came prepared to grow intellectually, maybe a little bit spiritually, but I did not expect to have my whole foundation shaken," says Reed, who plans to enter the Baptist ministry. "I didn't think very much before; I just read a lot, and I thought within my comfort zone. . . . Now I'm awakening to the fact that I can have an open-minded acceptance of different beliefs, and I can use that to make a greater faith within myself."--A.O.A.
--Myrlie Evers-Williams, chairperson of the National Board of Directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, speaking as part of the Third Annual Rosalynn Carter Distinguished Lecture Series, on October 17, 1995. Evers-Williams' husband, Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist, was assassinated in 1963 in Mississippi. After a third trial thirty-one years later, the original suspect, Byron De La Beckwith, was found guilty of murder.
"I have a provisional view--it's modified, it's not proved or without
contradictions--that a literary artist . . . should be able to do any damn
thing he wants. If he wants to enter the mind of a woman, he has every right
to. If he's white and he wants to enter the mind of a black man, he should be
able to do so. This to me has been--I hate to sound fancy--the sacred task of a
writer throughout the centuries. It should never be abridged by any
contemporary view that we are all so apart and remote from each other that we
cannot penetrate each other's understandings and consciousnesses. So this is
why I have--sometimes to my sense of ruefulness, but nonetheless I've done
it--tried to enter into areas where, properly speaking, I don't belong. And I
hope that everyone here who is trying to be a writer and is going to be a
writer--bless you in your calling--will never shrink from this challenge."
--Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Styron, author of Sophie's Choice
and The Confessions of Nat Turner, speaking at Emory on October 30,
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