Assembly for Action
From: Public Affairs
Laren Poole wants James Madison University’s Class of 2011 to live a life that demands explanation. In front of a crowd of graduating seniors decked out in purple caps and gowns Poole, the co-founder of Invisible Children Inc., shared his message of inspiration at JMU’s Senior Convocation May 5.
In an interview earlier in the day Poole said he was excited to be at JMU and was amazed by the spirit and sense of community. He cited the overwhelming interest in Alternative Spring Break as something that makes JMU stand out among universities he’s visited. "This is the kind of place where the ideology of Invisible Children will spread," said Poole.
Inspiring the Graduates
Thursday night Poole’s voice echoed through the Convocation Center as the graduates watched images of youth in Africa and the United States. “Those that think they can change the world are the ones who do,” he said.
Invisible Children is the nonprofit organization that Poole and his two friends founded in 2003 after they went to Uganda and documented the plight of children in the war-torn country. With no experience in the film industry, international relations, fundraising or business they started Invisible Children and have changed the world through their video documentaries, young volunteers and grass-roots fundraising techniques.
Poole emphasized this generation's connection to the world. "It is not where or to who you are born, but when," he said. Being a part of this generation means being connected to people all over the world who are the same age, who listen to the same music, like the same things and share the same Internet. This connection demands action. "Our generation can see injustice like never before," he said. "We know because of the Tweets and Facebook statuses of our friends."
He advises graduates who don’t know what they will be doing after graduation to create their own path. “That’s what’s going to change the world,” said Poole. “The world we want hasn’t been built.”
Laren Poole at Convocation Center.
IC club members met with Poole prior to the evening’s activities. Many were finished with exams but stayed to meet one of their heroes. Senior Rachael Capone, who admits she went "over-the-top" in recommending Poole as the Senior Convocation speaker, was bubbling over with excitement that she and her fellow club members were able to spend time with Poole during his visit to JMU.
"Our IC club is amazing," said Capone. "It is a group of 20 to 25 of the most passionate and dedicated individuals I've ever met." She said her involvement with the IC club has defined her time at JMU.
The IC club, officially finishing up its first year at JMU, has made a big impact locally as well as globally. Club members hosted IC Roadies, participated in “25,”a national pledge to be silent for 25 hours, and won a national contest for donating books that raised money for schools in northern Uganda.
In fall 2010 sophomore club member Elise Benusa volunteered as an IC Roadie, a student who travels around the country spreading IC’s message that American youth can be a powerful force in ending the war in Uganda. According to Poole, Roadies have to be passionate, great public speakers, energetic and a little bit crazy.
Benusa, who fits Poole’s Roadie description perfectly, said, “I think it is important for students at JMU to be aware of what is happening in the world and know that they can be a part of creating a change for the people affected by this war.”
“Invisible Children does not just travel around the country to tell a sad story, they want us to join them in this movement to create change not only in Uganda but all over the world,” said Benusa.
Change the World
Poole seemed humbled and genuinely thrilled by the experience of addressing the graduation seniors, knowing they are on the threshold of the next phase of their life. He has great faith that these educated young people will go out and change the world.
"We are at the beginning of a history in which we can all participate more than ever, where we can all be responsible for what's happening next," said Poole.
"I beg you to take action. Don't sit on that brilliant education. There is always more to learn."
May 6, 2011