The schools, even their names, aren’t widely known. Their roles are crisply defined, limited. But their graduates? They’ve earned two-year degrees, or occupational prerequisites, or certificates attesting to their capabilities. Along the way, a college in their community also has exposed them to the humanities, the sciences, the arts. That is, a community college has furthered their dreams, enhanced their careers, expanded their lives.
This is the world, and these are the people, an Oregon shooter attacked Thursday. As journalists chronicle the victims, we’ll all read about their dreams, their careers, their lives.
America has 1,200 community colleges with - another remarkable number - 13 million students. Joliet Junior College, founded in 1901 southwest of Chicago, apparently was the first. Tellingly, it was the creation of a local school superintendent, J. Stanley Brown, who wanted more students to attend college, and a University of Chicago president, William Rainey Harper, who understood that many high school grads couldn’t afford to do so. Or, as Brown and Harper surely realized, who had different aspirations.
In the coming days as Umpqua Community College reverberates through American society - with advocacy groups and politicians having their say - focus on these students. As October started, they were making something of themselves.
The shooter? Earlier this week he evidently posted online a window into his yearning. Writing about the killer of two TV station employees in Virginia, he wrote: “ . I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone. His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
Only if the rest of us let the limelight drift away from the people who spent the first part of Thursday furthering their dreams, enhancing their careers, expanding their lives.