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Windows on the World Inspires Writer to “Just Do It”

 

For Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, the phrase “Just Do It” has nothing to do with Nike-clad runners. In fact, it has nothing to do with athletics. For Williams-Skinner, co-founder and president of Skinner Leadership Institute, “Just Do It” is her approach to overcoming racial prejudice, tension and barriers. Williams-Skinner took on the daunting task of discussing these issues at Windows on the World, held on February 25. While it is difficult and perhaps unfair to form an opinion of a speaker who must address such prodigious and vast issues in such a short amount of time, it is safe to say that Williams-Skinner efficiently expressed her standpoint and delivered an important message that can never be over-emphasized.

Despite the broad, multi-faceted nature of the issue of race relations, Williams-Skinner took care to present possible solutions on a small enough scale to make them accessible. Often times with such deep and complex issues, the idea of overcoming them or even making progress can seem like an insurmountable, overwhelming task. But Williams-Skinner focused on small-scale excellence; making daily alterations to our goals and outlooks enable us to achieve greatness.

Her perspective on these issues was refreshing because she was not born into a Christian family. Williams-Skinner became a Christian in her 30s and was therefore able to offer a view from a vantage point that is unfamiliar to many of us. Through this, she was also able to point out that many non-Christian establishments are doing a much better job of bridging the racial gap than most Christian institutions.

Another valuable point Williams-Skinner made was that “becoming a Christian” doesn’t instantly and magically change your character. That is, it doesn’t eradicate the issues or prejudices you had before. We must make a conscious effort to improve ourselves.

There is an unavoidable issue that goes along with attempting to cover all the bases of a complex issue in a matter of 47 minutes. It becomes difficult to ascertain whether or not a speaker over-simplifies issues just for the sake of time, or because they have an overly-simplistic approach to the issues at hand. For example, when asked how we can overcome the prejudices that are so deeply ingrained in us, Williams-Skinner responded with an anecdote lauding the power of prayer. Perhaps she was merely addressing one facet of how we should approach personal prejudice, but we shouldn’t forget about our own responsibilities. To say that all we need is prayer is suggesting that God should do all the work. It also suggests that non-Christians are incapable of overcoming issues of race. The outlook for our goal to overcome racial barriers would be terribly bleak if this were the case.

Listening to Williams-Skinner brought me to a realization. One of her main focuses was taking action, and this focus I fully support. As I dissected the nuances of her motivation and theology, I realized that we so often spend all of our energy on formulating precise doctrinal and theological ideas on the correct way of doing things which leaves no energy or time for actually taking action towards reaching our ultimate goals. If we can agree on core objectives and allow room for all different approaches in terms of motivation and theology, we can come together more efficiently to attain what we ultimately strive for.

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