“Be part of the solution”: Alumnae inspire at fall 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series

The SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series welcomed two exceptional alumnae to campus for an intergenerational “Fireside Chat” on Monday, Oct. 28.

Janus Adams ’67 (Theatre Arts) ’18 HON and Ilyasah Shabazz ’85 (Biology) treated audience members to an in-depth exploration of how individuals can balance their responsibilities to society and to themselves, especially in times of challenge and change.

“We are either going to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution,” said Shabazz. “And I know I choose to be part of the solution. I think New Paltz chooses to be part of the solution.”

The timely conversation spanned generations and traversed difficult topics, with particular emphasis on racism and sexism.

Ultimately, the “Fireside Chat” resolved with an exhortation to live life for each other; that even in an age that seems defined by conflict, we are at our strongest when we practice compassion and empathy.

“We need use this time to build our craft of how we treat other people,” said Adams. “We need to appeal to our humanity and the fact that we are together.”

Adams and Shabazz also took time to reflect on their own experiences at SUNY New Paltz, considering how they changed during their time here, and what changes they’ve observed on campus in the years since they graduated.

Adams credited her time at the College with helping her discover the role gender played in her education, while Shabazz talked about how her studies enabled her to attain a deeper understanding of her father, Malcolm X.

“This is where I discovered my father,” she said. “It was an emotional time for me just trying to live up to his legacy.”

More information about the SUNY New Paltz Distinguished Speaker Series, including speaker bios and information about past and future events, is available online.

The 2019 Distinguished Speaker Series was made possible by the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, Inc., with support from the following sponsors: Buttermilk Falls Inn and Spa, Campus Auxiliary Services, Central Hudson, Henry’s at the Farm, Lola’s Café & Catering, M&T Bank and Sodexo.