Volume 6: Issue 4

From the President

I Believe! ACPA Believes!
Patty Perillo
ACPA President

When I became president of ACPA, I knew that I would get the very privileged opportunity to travel throughout the United States and internationally.  As you know, ACPA has many state and international division conferences that the president typically gets the chance to attend.  I thought a lot about what message I wanted to offer as I traveled on behalf of ACPA.  It became clear to me that what I wanted to offer was something that gave each colleague I met the opportunity to be reminded about his/her reasons for being in this profession, the chance to connect to his/her passions, and time to reflect on whether or not his/her lived actions are congruent with personal core beliefs.  And, during the time of this writing, I have already offered this opportunity while visiting my friends of CTLPA in Nassau Bahamas, during ACPA’s Summer Leadership Meeting at Davidson College, and for my Missouri colleagues at MoCPA.

We work in a profession that has the ability to transform individual people’s lives – strengthen the lives of communities – improve the world we live in.  However, this transformative possibility can only happen if we are intentional and purposeful about our work.  We have voluminous, peer-reviewed scholarship that grounds and guides our profession’s practice.  And, as practitioners, our work is to better understand this scholarship/research and translate it into intentional and purposeful practice.  I trust that you are doing this important work.  I also know that what we believe – our fundamental beliefs about life – directs our work in powerful ways.  Intentional practice is guided by knowing our research and knowing oneself.  I believe the best way we can do our work – using ourselves as instruments of change – is to get really, really clear about who we are, what we believe and why we serve,    This clarity of our work’s purpose – this clarity of our own life’s purpose – will direct our work in intentional and purposeful ways.

So, my work as I travel is to remind colleagues of this message and to help people “sharpen their saw” as Stephen Covey refers to in Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.  Another valuable reference is Parker Palmer, one of my personal favorites, who says that when our gifts/our offerings meet the world’s needs then we are in vocation.

So, I will continue along my thesis from my presidential speech at our Atlanta Convention.   We must use ourselves, our full selves, to help students learn and grow.  The only way to strengthen our practice is to engage it.  Whether you are impacting your home campus, ACPA, or our profession we are all working in a more pluralistic world.  One of our tasks as educators is to learn how to broaden discourse with members of our campus community to include difference perspectives and voices without sacrificing harmony; initiating important dialogue is one of our primary purposes.  This work is so important and it is difficult – it requires us to have a deepened understanding or our own personal values and beliefs.  It also calls upon us to have the ability to effectively articulate our personal center so that others can hear and understand us.  And, it compels us to begin to develop a greater ability to listen to beliefs different from our own.  So, I invite you, my colleagues, to join an international dialogue about personal values and civic ideals.

Why is dialogue so important?  “When people share personal stories, their uniqueness and complexity emerge.  Personal exchanges diminish stereotyping and promote caring. (Public Conversation Project, 2001)  Fifty years ago, Edward Murrow, the original host of “This I Believe” – a national (now becoming international) dialogue about personal values and civic ideals – recognized that America was facing a new era.  Today, like half a century ago, we face the beginning of another era:  America’s domestic and foreign policies have been transformed and conflicts about beliefs seem to threaten and divide our nations (This I Believe Facilitation Manual, 2005).  Given these challenges, there seems to be little wisdom present in “the spin” of the moment; even if one did attempt to articulate his/her beliefs, our society does not encourage such introspection.  A vibrant community – a cohesive world – requires direct communication.  As conversation begins, we must also learn how to listen to one another and choose our words effectively so that others can hear.  As we engage conversations, we may learn that those different from us may have more in common with us than we thought and/or may have something important to contribute.  Our goal is not to agree on the same beliefs but rather begin the much more difficult task of developing sensitivity to beliefs different from one’s own.  (This I Believe Facilitation Manual, 2005). 

NPR – national public radio – is calling on people to be conversation starters.  Conversation requires listening - a lost art!  According to Margaret Wheatley (2002) we need to sit together and listen to one another.  And, while doing this, we must become very clear about our own beliefs and values.

I am inviting all ACPA colleagues to contribute to this process that I am launching - - - “ACPA Believes!”  As a way to help foster more intentional practice, I want you to write a personal philosophy statement of 500 words or less.  After you write it, submit it to the ACPA Believes! - - - this will allow us to have an international understanding of what our colleagues believe - - - this will allow colleagues to acquire new personal insights and the motivation to stand up for what they believe to be right and true, to lead with purpose and intentionality.

Write about your beliefs.  I know how challenging this is as I did it myself (and I posted my statement, too)!  It requires an intimacy that no one else can do for you.  To guide you through the process, NPR offers these suggestions:

  • Tell a story – ground it, be specific, consider moments it was tested, make it real
  • Be brief – 350-500 words only (3 minutes when read aloud)
  • Name your belief(s) – if you cannot name it in 1-2 sentence than you might not be writing about beliefs – speak in me terms (not we)
  • Be positive – don’t preach or editorialize; don’t tell us what you don’t believe, tell us what you believe
  • Be personal – write in words and phrases comfortable for you; read aloud several times and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words

Adapted from the invitation sent to essayists featured in the original “This I Believe” series. Excerpted from This I Believe 2, copyright ©1954 by Simon and Schuster.

I invite you to complete your own personal “This I Believe” and submit it to our website.  It is my hope that as you engage this process you will become more clear about your beliefs and how they guide your life and work; that this clarity will bring more purposeful work on your campus and in your life; that as you engage others in this process and read others’ This I Believe you will gain a greater sensitivity to other voices.  The Public Conversation Project stated “it seems so simple – sitting down together and listening – and yet it is the lack of this simple act that causes and perpetuates so much violence in the world.”  Thank you, thank you, thank you in advance for participating in this simple act – sitting down to listen to your own voice and hearing the voice of others, while reading their submissions, will connect us.  And, truth be told, I am confident that there is no greater time for this connectedness to one other.  As you continue to do this, sitting and listening, you will make extraordinary differences in the lives of others. 

I look forward to journeying with you and look forward to receiving your personal “This I Believe” to be included as part of ACPA Believes! international voice project.  I believe in the transformative possibility of what we will create together.

In peace –