By Hannah Johnson
Many graduates have the question of ‘how can I make a difference in the world?’
Commencement means the start of something new, and each students’ new chapter will be different from the next.
Commencement speaker Daryl Baldwin is an example of how difficult steps in the beginning can lead to a whole lot of opportunity if you’re just willing to stick with it.
Baldwin grew up in Ohio, away from the Miami Tribe located in Oklahoma, but his interest in his culture left him wanting to fill a void he felt in his life. At the time, the Myaamia language was not being used in the tribe.
“My Myaamia language is very personal and it ties me to my indigenous knowledge system and it reinforces my identity as a Myaamia person which is very personal” he said.
Baldwin originally attended the University of Montana to become a wildlife biologist. After his undergraduate, he decided to take a chance on his passion. “I went into the graduate program for linguistics, and that really changed the course for me.”
He was driven by the desire to give his children and future generations the opportunity he didn’t have, to grow up speaking the Myaamia language. “When I started having kids that question came to mind, what is it that I’m going to pass on?”
In 2001, Baldwin came to Miami University as founding director of the Myaami Project. Miami agreed to fund the project for 3 years, and in 2013 it became the Myaamia Center. Through the project and center, Baldwin has been able to preserve the Myaamia language for his tribe and also implement it into the lives of students at Miami.
It is important to Baldwin that this revitalization is happening at Miami University, “the historical context of the word Miami, where it comes from, the fact that it is on this university but is tied to a living people with a past not a people from the past, that there is a language and a culture associated with it.”
This past September, Baldwin was awarded the national MacArthur Foundation grant for his work with the Myaamia language. The foundation says the grant is awarded to those who are helping to build a peaceful world. With such a big opportunity Baldwin said “the path to here is not lined by anything other than struggle.”
In his own life, his paths has not always been easy for himself and his family. Sacrifices had to be made in order to revitalize his culture and language.
He makes it clear that this movement has not all happened just by his efforts, but with others invested in this project by donating time and not expecting anything in return because they knew it was the right thing to do has helped create a trail.
“It’s like trailblazing. You’ve got a big thorny landscape and you’re trying to carve a trail, and that first trail is just full of scratches and bruises. But eventually there’s a trail, and those who walk down that trail will have a little easier time. Then they can take it further.”
Baldwin will leave that impression on the Miami University graduating class of 2017. How will they make a difference in the world?