“Without libraries, what have we?”~Ray Bradbury Libraries have historically been the refuge for the underdog. True followers of Henry Rollins know he once fell into that category. Without a place of asylum, young people often fall victim to everything from bullies to elements of society that infest and drain the very essence of humanity.
Henry’s social conscience will not be ignored. I’d go as far as calling him a moral powerhouse, in that he has taken a lonely and angry youth and developed him into a man who lives by giving back; his creative spark results in awareness. This awareness, because of Henry’s audience, is unleashed on a group of people often left twisting in the wind in our society: youth. People bemoan our youth, calling them apathetic and misdirected. One conversation with Henry about education today informs his listener of the reality of a completely UNdirected youth, or even a sense that the pain of youth can only be sated by immersion in a cause.
He has been labeled many things, from punk rocker to motivational speaker, but Rollins is anything but a preacher. He peppers his insight with a sense of humor that is both engaging and unique. His humor often captures the qualities of human nature that people most often fear, question, and philosophize about. At 53 years old he retains a youthful spirit of anger combined with the maturity and drive to DO SOMETHING about life.
Woodbury University has sponsored the Ray Bradbury Creativity Award since 1987. The award is given in the spirit of literacy and learning, so evident in the work of Bradbury. Creative spark and social conscience go hand-in-hand for all recipients of this award. More importantly, this award highlights a reverence for academics and suggests the use of critical thinking for the furthering of the pursuits which would make mankind a better species to be around. Woodbury university prides itself on teaching students about the future. We at Newscaller.com would like to thank Nedra Peterson, Woodbury University’s Librarian, for nominating Henry Rollins for this award.
Notes on the evening
The night began with a cocktail and coffee hour with Woodbury’s Friends of the Library. Henry spent time speaking with anyone that desired it, and signed multiple autographs while entertaining questions from University Professors to young fans.
Phase two of the evening was the ceremony. Dr. Luis María R. Calingo, President of Woodbury, provided the welcoming statements to the audience, which had grown exponentially for the event. He assured Henry that he had some Heavy Metal music on his phone, which produced a hearty chuckle from both Henry and the crowd.
Nedra Peterson reminded the crowd why they were there: Libraries! In the age of technology, some feel that libraries are of no use. Ms. Peterson focused on the merits and value of academic centers, libraries, as a bastion of both insight and forethought that remain critical to a changing world.
After the official presentation of the award, Henry was allotted twenty minutes. During this time he intensely condensed his 30+ years of insightful criticism and consideration of our world. He spoke of Bradbury as an influence, listening to dramatic readings of stories like “Dandelion Wine” on NPR in his hometown of Washington DC. He spoke of other influences as well: Mr. Klinger, his high school English teacher who read Henry’s writing and told him, “this is great. Show it to no one.” Henry reminded his crowd that although he was often angry, as it is “riotous anger that is often the catalyst for social change.” The man that some thought was just another punk rocker so many years ago retains his punk rock status through the efficacy of his endeavors. He touched on the idea that he is a lucky man to have been able to do what he has done for the last 30 years, although it is his relentless spirit, not luck, that is the driving force. After traveling to over 80 countries, Henry has seen some things and will tell very ounce of it to anyone who will take the time to listen.
Drew Sugars then interviewed Rollins. He covered a spectrum of questions, from things like the future of music to Henry’s travels, which inspire so much of his speaking engagements and sense of social justice. He asked, “what will replace punk rock?” Henry answered, “The next 80 million young people, who take their concerns to the ballot boxes, to the streets, to the next level [sic].”
Sugars ended the interview asking Henry what his advice is. Rollins stated, “Disabuse yourself of the notion ‘I can’t do that’.” In Hamlet, Shakespeare decried, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Indeed, it is.
The evening was closed up with Henry taking time to speak with every fan who wanted to bend his ear. He entertained some phenomenal questions from the crowd. One question of merit concerned the West Memphis Three, and his involvement in raising money for their defense as wrongfully accused murderers. This is a subject that has interested me for years, as the social injustice surrounding the court system is volatile, to say the least. Another striking question came from a young woman who wanted to know why creativity seemed so lacking in scientific endeavors. Rollins clasped his hands and discussed that money takes precedence over the heartfelt compassion that seems to be lacking in today’s scientific endeavors. He stated, “science loses creativity with Damacles’ sword of fiscal reality” hanging over its head. He remained hopeful in that there are always more scientists to come, and surely they will realize this as well.
Rollins is known for his graciousness in terms of fans. He stated, “without my audience, I am the proverbial tree that falls in the forest.” His fears are failure and letting himself down. We could all aspire to have such realistic and concise fears in today’s world.
Watch newscaller.com for an interview with Rollins.