Keynote Speaker Preaches “Radical” Message of Love

On Tuesday, January 18, Father Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest and founder of the world’s largest gang rehabilitation program, spoke as Baldwin Wallace’s Keynote Speaker for MLK week over Zoom. 

“I don’t empower anybody, I don’t transform anybody,” Boyle said. “But at this place, people find transformation. And they find the power in themselves.”  

Throughout the session, Boyle spent his time sharing a portion of what he has learned  as the head of Homeboy Industries, an organization that boasts itself as the world’s largest gang rehabilitation program.  

He spoke of many ideas such as having this separation between people and not understanding the idea of kinship and what it means for all people to see each other as an “us”; where everyone is a part of one community. Boyle also spoke about the importance of living in every moment. 

“You know, none of us are gonna live forever,” Boyle said. “But all of us can choose to live forever. And that’s what it’s like when we’re laughing from the stomach here, [at Homeboy Industries], and you’re choosing to be anchored in the present moment.” 

The event mainly consisted of a discussion between Boyle and CJ Harkness, the director of Campus Diversity Affairs at Baldwin Wallace.  

“His ideas challenged me,” said Harkness. “His notion of love is pretty radical when you think about it in logical terms… I haven’t arrived there yet; at a place to have love be that unconditional.” 

Boyle was supposed to come to Baldwin Wallace during the Spring semester of 2019, but due to serious health concerns at the time, he had to cancel.  

“His name was always at the top of my list so when we found out he was available, he was locked in pretty early at the Keynote Speaker for MLK week,” said Harkness. 

“For me, my goal was to showcase someone who has done some really remarkable things and done it in such a way that I think challenges us to continue to strive to be better individuals,” said Erika Walker-Smith, BW’s director of inclusion programs & community development. 

“He certainly did that”, said Walker-Smith. “Just in terms of talking about the idea of kinship and how there should be an ‘us’, there shouldn’t be an ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s ‘us’.” 

Harkness said that the goal of bringing visiting speakers to BW is to inspire students and broaden their horizons.  

“With any speaker, I always want people to leave the talk with some new knowledge of the world and the inspiration to do something or just to be someone better. 

“I would hope that people who attended [the event] and people who watched the recording really take away a sense of our common humanity,” Harkness said. “[And] take the time to be present with one another, to see more of a sense of looking at those around us as ‘us’ and not ‘them.’” 

The recording of Boyle’s Keynote Speaking can be found on Baldwin Wallace University’s YouTube page.