At Georgetown, we often hear the phrase “breaking the bubble.” In a column last week, NicholasDirago argued that students should engage with Washington, D.C., in a way that aids communities outside of our “bubbles of privilege.” (“Engaging DC Beyond the Bubble,” A3, September 16, 2013). While I applaud Dirago for bringing to light D.C.’s severe socioeconomic stratification, I must also defend a different type of student, one whom I hope one day will also contribute to saving the world.

Let me introduce a friend of mine here at Georgetown. She is currently in New York networking with financial analysts, though she already boasts an impressive set of business connections. Last year, she interned for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and this summer, she worked for the United Nations and PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dubai. She spends her free time studying finance or reading books on philosophy and dreams of building a school in Burma, where her father grew up. However, she rarely has time to participate in the many wonderful service groups here on campus.

As Dirago says, many students pursue their future careers with seeming disregard for the outside world; internships and networking take priority over direct community service. Instead of protesting labor injustices, students like the friend I described cram for accounting or management exams. Instead of spending afternoons tutoring in D.C. public schools, my friend spends her time interning for public policy makers. And while immediate social change may not be evident, the fruits of this career-focused ambition may lead to greater social justice than any community service organization could create. I agree with Dirago that we must strive to participate beyond the white marble facade of this nation’s capital, but there are many ways to do so.

In a city where one in five residents is below the poverty line, where the HIV rate is in the high range of many sub-Saharan countries and where the greatest achievement of public schools may be the cradle-to-prison pipeline, students learn how critical it is to enact social change. My friend’s sphere of networking extends beyond the owners of big companies or promising classmates to the workers in Leo’s and the janitors in ICC. I, on the other hand, take time to volunteer with various campus organizations, but rarely make time to meet campus employees.

Mr. Dirago, do not underestimate students like my friend. Sweeping social change may be impossible without attaining high-profile, powerful careers, and such careers demand arduous attention to detail. One mistake in your academic career, for instance, and medical school may be beyond your reach.

So while I laud Dirago and service groups on campus for exposing and alleviating the injustices that occur outside, and sometimes inside, our front gates, I must also praise our practical, career-oriented students.

To the future Wall Street bankers, CEOs, lawyers, policymakers, hospital managers and business tycoons, and to my friend, I wish you the best of luck. But I also look to you, and depend on you, to be actively mindful. Do as Dirago suggests and remember to follow the Jesuit ideal of contemplation in action. How does the tax proposal on your desk change the economic prospects for the underserved? Are your products produced in an ethical way? Will you fund medical research on a profitable drug, or a drug that will save more lives? How do your decisions affect others, and how can you leave the most positive impact on the world around you?

Look back on the morals that Georgetown teaches, and remember to always look at the big picture, beyond the bubble. But don’t necessarily pop that bubble of privilege — take advantage of it.

I know that my friend, when she finally lands a job on Wall Street, will remember the 99 percent. Someday, she may be the CEO of a national department store, and she will be empowered to raise the wage of her employees. And perhaps when she becomes, in later years, the editor-in-chief of a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper, she will consider which stories will move readers to create social change.

To Dirago, I must defend these thoughtful, hardworking Georgetown students. Though they may not seem to venture out of their comfort zone, I assure you, they do. And I know that their actions will help to save the world, too.

Haley Lepp is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *