President's 2019 New Year's Message

Happy New Year, Carolina Students!

I hope that you have been enjoying your holidays and a well-deserved respite from the rigors of study. I certainly enjoyed my time away. Our family even experienced a dusting of snow on Christmas Eve morning.

While traveling, I heard an old song that used to be quite popular. It's called "Don't Worry, Be Happy" and sung a cappella by Bobby McFerrin. He even whistled part of the song and it became infectious in its simplicity and catchiness. The song's title tells what it was about. Of course, happiness can't be attained that simply, though wouldn't it be great if we could whistle our worries away?

Many persons, including students and others in our university family, are affected by anxiety, depression and other conditions. These can be serious and are caused and triggered by many different things. Often, they require professional help and intervention and we must encourage persons who are suffering to seek help if we think they could benefit from it. Sometimes people say that one of the things that troubles them is the general state of our world. If so, I want to share some good news. This news lifted my spirits over the holidays and I hope it will do so for you.

A recent paper by Dylan Matthews from Vox, which is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, reports that the state of the world is better than it has ever been, not in every regard, but at least in a number of important ways. Worldwide, extreme poverty is on the decline, there are fewer people experiencing hunger on a regular basis, less illiteracy, lower infant mortality, longer life expectancy, more children attending school, more democracies, and more leisure time. Of course, these reflect average conditions and there are plenty of exceptions in different parts of the world and even in the United States. My only point is that in a world where news reports inundate us every day with doom and gloom, there is also news to be happy about.

I don't really expect any of this news to actually make you happy. But one thing that might help make you happier or more satisfied in the short term is dedicating some time to serve individuals, organizations or communities that could use your help and involvement.

Along with several personal goals that served as the basis for my New Year's resolutions this year (which shall remain private!), I'm resolving to remind myself of the inherent goodness in people and nature and to try to balance my ever-present concerns and worries about our future with that realization. I'm also resolving to spend more time serving others, especially after I step down on August 1. I started community service during college and have tried to continue these pursuits throughout my life. Patricia and I still serve as "mentors" to a brother and sister in Columbia who we met when they were barely in Kindergarten. Today they are 25 and 22 years old. We don't know how much we have affected their lives but we're certain that they have affected ours for the better. In helping others, we derive satisfaction and pleasure, often in equal or greater measure than what we give.

In this spirit, I hope you’ll consider participating in community service this semester, if you haven’t already planned to. An easy opportunity is our MLK Day of Service which is scheduled on Saturday, January 19. Like me, you can just show up at Davis Field at around 8:30 a.m. We’ll be assigned to a team, have a great day of work and fun, and even be provided with lunch. The best part is how happy we ’ll feel later that evening.

Also, try not to worry too much about being away from campus during this winter break. Be happy in knowing that we live in a slowly improving world and that we can each do a small part to accelerate the improvement. In any case, a rapidly approaching new semester at Carolina awaits you with open arms.

Happy New Year!

Harris Pastides

snowman illustration