Sustaining Change

It was 1947, and Veterans who served in World War II had returned to campus. They were a legendary group who would go on to become leaders in organizations across the country. But they would also introduce Americans to new realities.

One such reality involved a swimming hole on a river close to campus. The veterans found the river and loved to relax on the rock outcroppings adjoining the river. The veterans were loud but not out of control. They drank a lot of beer and had cookouts. The noise and the drinking may have been acceptable to the people who lived near the swimming hole in this very rural area. But the problem was the mix of races who came to the swimming hole.

Police were called to remove the swimmers but they refused since no laws were being violated. The swimming hole was a state property. Local legislators would not provide any support because they were afraid to anger the massive veteran voting bloc.

A lawsuit was brought to declare the swimming hole a public nuisance. The judge, Andrew Rivera, ruled against those filing the lawsuit. In his ruling from the bench, Judge Rivera said: “I’m rejecting the action brought by the plaintiffs with prejudice.” Prior to leaving the courtroom he asked the leaders of the veterans to meet with him.

“With prejudice means that the plaintiffs can not revisit this issue. But I have to warn you, any changes in the use of the swimming hole can lead to another lawsuit. You need to be worried about such things as underage drinking, drug use, uncontrolled trash, or anything that can give legitimacy to a public nuisance,” Judge Rivera warned them. “I applaud all of you for breaking down racial barriers, but please setup a way to sustain the long-term proper use of the swimming hole.”

What followed was decades of remarkable stewardship of the swimming hole. One generation of students passed on the legacy and heritage of Judge Rivera’s trust in the use of the swimming hole. Stories of the original veterans were shared from each student generation to the next. There are no written rules or overseers. The secret to sustaining the swimming hole as it was originally used was one of honor. Sustaining change is built on honor and respect, not documents.

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“Change is easy to propose, hard to implement, and especially hard to sustain.”
– Andy Hargreaves (Educational Change Advocate)

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