Long-Term Efforts Make for Positive Change

In the first two AIEmails of 2013, we've been talking about New Year's resolutions. Now that we're getting a little deeper into January, though, you may find that your resolve is being tested. Maybe you haven't completed your FAFSA yet (in which case you should consider doing that ASAP). Maybe you've fallen into an old pattern of waking up at the last possible second and you've been late to school a time or three (in which case you should consider going to bed a little earlier). It's okay that stumbles happen. They're a fantastic learning opportunity. In nearly every case, people who bring about positive change — in their own lives or in the larger world — also experience setbacks on the way to success.

January 21st is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday to celebrate the civil rights leader's legacy and accomplishments. His work provides a terrific example of how setbacks along the way can be overcome. Arrests (29 of them, in fact), government surveillance, and personal struggles marked King's efforts to improve civil rights. His first major civil rights campaign, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, took place in 1955. It was eight years later that he gave the famous "I Have a Dream" speech, and when he was assassinated in 1968, many of the gains we associated with the Civil Rights Movement had yet to be won. The point is this: this individual who achieved so much success nonetheless faced struggles and setbacks. Positive change — personal and societal — takes more than a burst of effort; it takes repeated effort over time.

As you're making your college plans, applying for financial aid, finding out about college acceptances, and otherwise preparing to realize your higher education dreams, this is a good time of year to think not just about resolutions, but about resolve.