The recent events in Egypt have elicited responses from all around the world. From U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to President Barack Obama, big names have spoken out about the civil rights unrest in Egypt. This isn’t to say the events have gone ignored here in Ann Arbor. University students gathered in the Diag last Friday to protest the Egyptian government’s oppression of human rights. Seeing students unite for a cause occurring halfway around the world is a refreshing reminder of the depth of diversity at this school.

According to a Michigan Daily article last week, (Students show support for Egyptian uprising in Diag protest, 01/28/2011) students gathered on the Diag in response to the unrest in Egypt, where protesters have risen up in opposition to President Hosni Mubarak. The students gathered with signs and various chants to convey their opposition to Mubarak’s handling of the situation.

In a day and age when the youth are increasingly criticized for being ignorant and apathetic, it’s nice to see individuals mobilize behind a cause. The University is widely known for its activism. As LSA senior Noha Moustafa told the Daily, it’s “a testament to the student activism that is on this campus.” Students of different backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities gathered together in order to make their voices heard.

What was most surprising — in a good way, of course — was the sheer number of students present at the protest. Such a large turnout reveals that students not only are aware of their surroundings, but are passionate enough to want to act on that awareness. The crisis in Egypt is one of many examples of violations of individual rights. It’s refreshing to see the myriad of organizations and student groups devoted to a variety of issues and causes at the University. In addition to academia and athletics, the University boasts a student population that genuinely strives to positively impact the world in which they live.

If the situation in Egypt illustrates anything, it’s this: In the end, it’s individuals who have the power to change things. Individuals in Egypt rose up against the policies of the government, individuals here demonstrated their support and many others formulated protests around the United States. The problems of the world can’t be solved by governments or other social institutions alone — a great amount of power lies in individual will. For, in the words of cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

In that spirit, I request those of you who haven’t yet found one, to pick up a cause. With classes and clubs and friends and other obligations, I know time is scarce. But, still take some time to think about your passions, your purpose, about the things that you want to improve in the world, the problems you want to solve and the mark you want to leave. Whether it’s volunteering at elementary schools or raising money for flood victims in Pakistan, find what makes you come alive and actually act upon it. There are countless issues that need to be addressed in the world, often in areas far beyond our daily life routines. Step beyond those daily routines momentarily to find something in the world that impacts you and use that to impact the world. The events in Egypt are an inspiration to us all, showing us all that a group of motivated and passionate individuals can initiate a major change.

Harsha Nahata is an assistant editorial page editor.

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