By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
The members of Sacred Heart Schools’ faculty and staff who filled the Sacred Heart Academy gym Aug. 5 heard from author Judith Mudd-Krijgelmans that contributing to the world is a way of practicing charity and showing love for others.
Mudd-Krijgelmans is a former United States Foreign Service public diplomacy officer and author of a new book, “Flowers for Brother Mudd: One Woman’s Path from Jim Crow to Career Diplomat.” She delivered a presentation during the schools’ annual “commissioning day” event to celebrate the start of a new school year.
Mudd-Krijgelmans is a native of Louisville who graduated from the old Ursuline Academy in 1964. She grew up in public housing in Louisville’s Smoketown neighborhood during the era of racial segregation.
During her presentation, Mudd-Krijgelmans said segregated blacks were told that theirs was a “separate, but equal society.”
“But that was a joke. It was not equal,” said Mudd-Krijgelmans. “That was a hard pill to swallow when I was growing up.”
Segregation was difficult for her to accept because she felt the United States was “my country, my America,” she said.
Segregation didn’t stop her from dreaming or achieving, however. The confidence she found at Ursuline Academy helped propel her to a career as a foreign service diplomat who traveled the globe, she said.
“I went to school with girls who treated me like I was their sister. Going to school at Ursuline I felt the love, I felt the acceptance. I did not feel different because of my background and color,” she told school faculty and staff. “I felt that it was my mind and my whole person that was being considered.”
Mudd-Krijgelmas said she feels “very fortunate” to have had the life she did despite the circumstances.
Blacks faced many challenges — unemployment and limited access to housing, education and healthcare. These issues are still prevalent today, Mudd-Krijgelmans said.
“It behooves us to pay attention to the past, because it’s a country heading towards a majority-minority.
This means we have to hold on to what we knew to be true
and what we found to be wrong and continue working toward solving it,” she said.
She also noted that this work needs to be done “in a spirit of gratitude and a spirit of love.”
She urged her listeners not to waste time dwelling on the past out of a sense of guilt.
“We don’t have the luxury of spending too much time dwelling on the past. When we do, we need to dwell on it in a constructive way,” she said.
Learning from the past to move into the future is especially important now, when so many new minorities are coming to the U.S., said Mudd-Krijgelmans. She likes to think of this nation as a patchwork quilt, she said.
“We need to get more squares to represent them. This is America’s challenge. Other countries are looking to us as the standard,” she said.
Mudd-Krijgelmans went on to share with her audience that she learned a lot through her travels to countries such as India, Belgium and China. Those lessons include:
- The importance of cultural, social and racial diversity.
- The value of treating people with dignity.
- The value of teamwork.
- The value of integrity to “do the right thing and tell the truth, especially when you’re at a table with people who want to do something else,” she said.
- The importance of making a contribution as an individual.
“Instill in your students that they need to make a contribution as individuals … practicing charity and love of your fellow human beings,” said Mudd-Krijgelmans.
Sacred Heart School teachers who attended the presentation said they were inspired and plan to take what they learned to their classrooms.
Amy Malcolm, a sixth-grade math teacher at Sacred Heart Model School, said her take-away is the importance of inclusiveness. Malcolm said she will return to her classroom with a determination to “make everyone feel included no matter where they come from or what their home background is.” This might “lessen the anxiety” some students feel, she said.
Alicia White, a second-grade educational assistant, said Mudd-Krijgelmans’ presentation gave her the “inspiration to keep moving forward in what I’m called to do.”
“It made me feel like you can broaden your horizon no matter who you are or where you’re from,” said White.
Caroline Elliott, a teacher at Sacred Heart Model School, said she will take Mudd-Krijgelmans’ message of striving to go beyond one’s limits to her fourth-grade classroom.
“She used the foundation developed at Ursuline Academy to go out and inspire others,” said Elliott. She hopes to inspire her students and “push them to go beyond their limits,” she added.