I posted this video yesterday of Geraldo Rivera interviewing college students outside the White House Sunday night, as they celebrated the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. If you look close – these people make up our mission field, after all – there’s actually quite a bit this one clip reminds us about college students.
While it’s always good for us to analyze the people we serve, this kind of thing can also be useful for sharing with our supporters, our overseers, and others about our unique campus mission fields. And it might even be handy for helping our own students reflect on themselves.
1. College students love an excuse to rally. Not only are college students easily excitable, but they also enjoy being excited. Among other applications of this fact, this is one reason why the Large Group Meeting continues to be one of the more missional methods within college ministry: because collegians love participating in “the big thing,” whether it be a football game or protest or campus-wide concert.
2. Zeal is more common (and certainly comes sooner) than wisdom or reflection.
3. Their lives have been shaped by 9/11. For college students today, their earliest “world-shaping memory” may just be the events of September 11, 2001 – when most were between 8 and 12 years old. We who are even a little bit older are quick to forget that. 9/11 will forever shape their lives, much like an older generation was impacted deeply by the disaster of Pearl Harbor.
4. They live very much “in the now” (and “in the here”). These college students were thrilled on the night of bin Laden’s death. But as you probably noticed (and as Geraldo very much exploited!) they seemed equally thrilled at the possibility of getting to miss Finals the next day. That’s how college students often think: Whatever’s happening now (and often to them) is what matters most.
5. There’s a tribal identity that actually means something. Dallas sports radio played this clip on Monday to laugh at the girl at the end, who unceremoniously exclaims a “Roll Tide, y’all!” (If you’re unfamiliar, “Roll Tide” is the extremely well known, widely used war cry of the University of Alabama.)
It’s easy to think that’s a ridiculous way to celebrate anything beyond a touchdown… but I’m not so sure. I went to one of the more tradition-laden schools in the country, Texas A&M, and our own exclamations – “Whoop!” being chief among them – were bred into me, as well. And though it may sound stupid, that remains my most personal, most “primal” means of expressing excitement – much more than an “amen” or a more generic cheer. For that gal, the most appropriate way to express utter celebration may very well have been “Roll Tide, y’all!”
(Or if she was just taking the moment to represent her campus tribe to a national TV audience… well, that kinda fits #4, doesn’t it?)