Serving in America
by Jacky Amadu Kaba
I arrived in the United States from my native war-torn land, Liberia, West Africa in the summer of 1992 as a teenager. An African American missionary for the A.M.E. Zion Church, Rev. Frederick Umoja and his wife, Charlotte, had performed the miracle of bringing me to the United States to continue my education. Rev. Umoja had been a long time resident in Liberia, serving as the college president and high school principal of those two A.M.E. Zion institutions.
During the fall semester of 1992, I resumed my formal education by attending Saint John's College High School in Washington, D.C. as an eleventh grade student. I had a very successful two-year stay both as a varsity basketball player and as a student.
During the first weeks of my high school senior year in 1993, I was very fortunate to sign a college basketball scholarship with Seton Hall University. Immediately after graduation from high school in June 1994, I traveled from Washington, D.C., to Seton Hall University, in New Jersey, to begin my university education.
It was during my high school years and undergraduate years at Seton Hall University that I began observing first hand what distinguishes the United States from every other nation in the world. It was at this time that I began observing the commitment of public service by the people of the United States, a commitment which goes beyond race or gender. It was as if those young people who were willing to do what their teachers and their institutions ask them to do were almost on a fast track.
In addition to what I saw as the unlimited amount of resources available, my teachers, professors and school and university administrators were always ready to provide me with any academic support or assistance that I needed. It was that support that resulted to me getting the required SAT score to secure my college basketball scholarship, and to also receive my bachelor's degree in Political Science in three years, instead of the normal four years, even though I had to travel across the country extensively with my team to play intercollegiate basketball games.
With the support of Seton Hall University, I was also able to finish my graduate education in Public Administration in 18 months, and my Ph.D. in three years all at the same institution. So from the summer of 1992, when I arrived in the U.S., to May 2002, I went from barely speaking English to receiving two great years of high school education and a doctorate. That was a complete team accomplishment, not the work of one person.
With this experience, it was almost certain that I would do all I can to find a way to contribute to the society that has given me so much and enabled me to achieve my dreams. I was so eager to contribute back to society that towards the end of my fourth year at Seton Hall University, I was very impressed when I saw a quote from the late Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., that says that a person need not be rich to serve. I then began to volunteer to tutor students (athletes and non-athletes) in courses in the social sciences. I continued volunteering as a tutor throughout my doctoral studies, including helping classmates to prepare for their Ph.D. comprehensive examinations and their work on research papers. I had no idea that this effort would result in my becoming a professor and a social scientist.
I began my formal role as a public servant, when immediately after graduation from Seton Hall University in May 2002, I was offered a post-doctoral fellowship by the Kenyan-born political scientist Professor Ali A. Mazrui, the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities, Binghamton University, State University of New York. From September 2002, to June 2005, I assisted in teaching political science courses with Dr. Mazrui both at Binghamton University and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
Apart from teaching with Dr. Mazrui, I also taught my own course on U.S. foreign policy towards Africa at Binghamton University and also volunteered to help students (undergraduates and graduates) both at Binghamton University and Cornell University with their academic work, including conducting seminars pertaining to the techniques and strategies for writing social science research papers.
In June 2005, I was extremely fortunate again when my alma mater, Seton Hall University, offered me an assistant professorship at the Graduate Department of Public and Healthcare Administration. In my recent research publications in professional journals, I repeatedly point to how the U.S. is great because its people have created an environment whereby someone with my background could come to the country and work hard and have the opportunity to become not only a tax payer, but also contribute to the country's lead in the world.
In a 1997 published interview in the "Seton Hall University Guide for Students from Abroad", I had said that even if I do not go back to my native land immediately after I complete my university education: "... I am going to contribute positively to society, and that is what you want every young man or young woman to do.... You don't want somebody who just takes and takes and takes from society. I want to give too."
As for my current and future research goals, I have made the commitment to: (1) promote strong and positive relations between males and females, and blacks and whites in the United States and (2) to promote strong and positive relations between the United States and Africa, including promoting a positive image of the great people of this country, especially to the hundreds of millions of young Africans who look up to us here in America.
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