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Student involvement needed to publicize One Book, One Waco

March 20, 2003

By John Hill

Imagine this: you have an opportunity to accomplish three very important goals. First, you can help unite a city. Second, you can help bring together students, faculty and administrators from all three colleges and universities in Waco. And third, you can advance reading and open dialogue among all age and socioeconomic groups in Waco. Does this sound like something worthy of your participation? I hope so!

This past summer, a group of civic leaders, comprised of Mayor Linda Ethridge and leaders from the Waco ISD, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Waco-McLennan County Public Libraries, Waco city government and Baylor selected Ernest J. Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying as the inaugural book for One Book, One Waco. The novel met the criteria of strong literary merit, a reading level of around eighth grade and above and challenging themes relevant to the Waco community.

Following the book's unveiling, a new committee, comprised of city leaders from across Waco, was formed to lead One Book, One Waco through April, the month of peak concentration. As a result of the group's diligent efforts, people across Waco are reading the book and discussing it in churches, bookstores, the public libraries, secondary schools and all three universities. In addition, the program has been featured in the Waco Tribune-Herald, on all three local network television stations and was highlighted as the primary article in this month's Waco city newsletter, which is sent to all city residents who pay a water bill. A letter from Mayor Ethridge soon will be mailed to all the churches and places of worship in Waco, inviting their respective congregations to participate.

So how can we, as members of the Baylor family, participate? To begin, Baylor students already have made a profound contribution. A recent on-campus fundraiser collected over $2,000, with 13 different student organizations contributing. This money will allow for the purchase and distribution of approximately 500 books to area locations, including youth and senior centers. More than 300 of these books will be distributed to the recipients of the Meals on Wheels program in Waco. Students are needed to distribute these books, thus providing an excellent opportunity for Baylor students to serve the less fortunate in our community in a very tangible and meaningful way.

Another way to participate is to read and discuss A Lesson Before Dying with your friends and/or organization. The book deals with such important themes as race relations, human dignity, the role of faith in a community, the death penalty and the purposes of education. While a quick read, the book has very memorable lessons to share about how we live our lives at Baylor and in Waco.

Campus living and learning, the Division of Student Life, and the Human Relations Council have hosted or will be holding discussion groups for students and faculty. For more information on these, please visit the One Book, One Waco Web site at or contact me at or 710-4704.

Additionally, the Waco-McLennan County Libraries and Barnes and Noble are looking for people interested in working with younger students through reading and arts and crafts sessions that deal with cultural understanding and respect. Barnes and Noble also is seeking people who are willing to facilitate discussions of A Lesson Before Dying at its store in April.

Whether you wish to become intimately involved or just want to lend a helping hand where possible, I am confident your contribution will enhance the quality of this far-reaching program. By supporting and participating in One Book, One Waco, you are helping advance a legacy of commitment to service that promises to be of benefit to the Waco-Baylor community for many years to come.