“We should be grateful for our voices …”

On Wednesday, Nov. 26, the Cristo Rey Jesuit community gathered for our annual Thanksgiving prayer service. Junior Neil Mattei Jr. addressed the school and shared his thoughts on the events in Ferguson, Missouri. He also challenged his fellow students to be “peacemakers and problem solvers of society.” Here are his remarks:

As most of you should know, Monday night around 9:15 in Ferguson the decision was made that police officer Darren Wilson would not face any charges for the murder of Michael Brown. Michael Brown was fatally shot on August 9, 2014 for a suspected robbery of a nearby convenience store. He was only 18 years old.

As [the students who spoke before me] just said, in order to work for justice we must stop being afraid to do what’s right and we should be grateful for our voices, which are our greatest tool. That is why I stand here today.

Neil Mattei Jr. addresses his fellow students during a Thanksgiving prayer service.
Neil Mattei Jr. addresses his fellow students during a Thanksgiving prayer service.

Injustices like the tragedy in Ferguson are very important and should not be taken lightly. As a society it seems that the value of one’s own life has become meaningless. Every life on earth is important and people need to realize this. We cannot expect others to value our lives unless we value our own. This means that we must understand that our presence on earth is important, and that everything we think, say, and do matters to the world.

We must first recognize and then live up to our potential, and become the peacemakers and problem solvers of society. It is our job to fight for each other and against the injustices in the society we live in. In order to do this, we must be a part of the solution and not be the cause of more problems. We must better ourselves individually so that as a community we can come together and work for a common cause.

Ferguson should not be forgotten, instead we must use our knowledge about everything that has happened as motivation to prevent issues like this in the future. It is wrong of us to look at the events in St. Louis and shake our heads and talk about them without any action in our own lives.

A mural in one of our stairways says it all.
A mural in one of our stairways says it all.

Everyone in this room can do something about the injustices in our world. We are the next generation of leaders, and we don’t have to wait until we are adults to do something about the problem. It’s the little actions in each of our lives that become big solutions for society.

I encourage each of you to think about how much you value your own lives and the lives of those around you. During the Thanksgiving season we should be grateful for ourselves and for our unique gifts.  We must also give thanks for our community.  Finally, we should do as we did today and pray for people like Mike Brown and his family.  We cannot separate ourselves from this issue because, God forbid, who is to say that the next Michael Brown isn’t me or you?

So, as I close, I want each of you to understand that issues like the one in St. Louis should continue to be taken seriously by everyone and that as a community we can make a difference in society through our everyday actions.

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